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The vast majority of the estimated 300,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are unregistered and living in deplorable conditions. In 2012, there were around 30,000 registered refugees living in Kutupalong camp, in Cox’s Bazaar. Some were fleeing renewed violence in Myanmar, while others sought protection from exploitation elsewhere in Bangladesh. Many have been struggling to survive in the area for years. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs a clinic for local Bangladeshis and refugees just outside the makeshift camp, although MSF’s presence has been challenged by the government. Staff provide basic healthcare, including maternal and mental health services. The clinic also has a small inpatient unit, a stabilization unit for severely malnourished children, a diarrhea treatment center and an ambulance for hospital referrals. MSF continues to advocate for improved living conditions for the Rohingya.
Assisting Children and Women in Dhaka
In the Dhaka slum of Kamrangirchar, MSF teams run two health centers offering basic medical care and child and maternal health services. More than 40,000 pediatric consultations were carried out over the year.
It is not uncommon for girls between the ages of 10 and 15 in Kamrangirchar to marry and become pregnant soon afterwards. However, information about the elevated health risks for this age group during pregnancy and childbirth is seriously lacking. Staff at both centers have begun providing specialist services to adolescent girls and young women.
Kala Azar Program
Kala azar, also known as visceral leishmaniasis, is a deadly tropical disease transmitted by sandflies. It is the second-biggest parasitic killer worldwide, after malaria. Some 90 per cent of cases occur in just seven countries, and Bangladesh is one of them. At MSF’s kala azar program in Fulbaria, the team has been using liposomal amphotericin B to treat the disease since 2010. This is safer and more effective than previous treatments, and takes just one day. In 2013 the Ministry of Health approved treatment with liposomal amphotericin B nationwide and is in the process of changing its national protocol.
At the end of 2012, MSF had 354 staff in Bangladesh. MSF started working in the country in 1985.