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Diphtheria Outbreak In Refugee Camps Indicates Rohingya Children Missing Out On Basic Vaccinations

Scientific American: A Completely Preventable Public Health Crisis
Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

“With the recent arrival of more than 655,000 Rohingya refugees living in squalid conditions in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, an outbreak of an infectious disease might have seemed inevitable. But not diphtheria. … The fact that there is a diphtheria outbreak in the first place is a clear indication that these people did not have access to even the most basic vaccines and brings into question the conditions they were living in before they arrived at the camp. This outbreak is not the product of conditions within the camps, but rather a deadly legacy of the conditions in which they had been living before they fled Myanmar. … [E]nough Rohingya children have missed out [on basic immunizations] to trigger an outbreak. This clearly indicates a major public health failure, which has compromised the Rohingya’s human right to lead healthy lives through the prevention of vaccine-preventable disease. … [W]hile the focus now must be on ending the outbreak in the refugee camps, it is important to remember that whenever diphtheria is involved, the camps are not the problem” (2/1).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.