Dhaka/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 29 September 2017 — Red Crescent mobile clinics in Cox’s Bazar are treating an increasing number of people with acute watery diarrhoea, raising concerns about a possible outbreak of disease among the estimated 480,000 people who have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in recent weeks.

Safe water, sanitation, hygiene promotion and medical care are urgently needed to prevent what would be a catastrophic development.

Our mobile clinics are treating more people, especially children, who are very sick from diarrhoeal diseases which are a direct result of the terrible sanitation conditions in the makeshift camps,” said Mozharul Huq, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. “We are on the cusp of a serious health outbreak.”

Bangladesh Red Crescent Society volunteers and staff have provided purified water to more than 30,000 people. They are also building latrines and showers to improve sanitation and safeguard the security and dignity of women and girls, but the needs outpace the delivery of services.

The lack of clean water and sanitation is alarming,” said Martin Faller, Deputy Regional Director for Asia Pacific for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “In some camps, hundreds of people are sharing one toilet.  The conditions for an outbreak of disease are all present – we have to act now and we have to act at scale.”

According to the World Health Organisation, each person requires at least 7.5 litres of water per day for basic survival and hygiene purposes in a humanitarian emergency.

For the people displaced from Rakhine, a minimum of 3.6 million litres of water is needed per day. Thousands of toilets will also be needed for health, dignity and safety. While we are nowhere near that level, the Bangladesh Red Crescent and IFRC have mobilised technical staff and volunteers on the ground to scale up water, sanitation and medical care to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the new arrivals,” said Martin Faller.

Through the support of partner national societies, IFRC has deployed experts in water purification, emergency sanitation and hygiene promotion to assist 20,000 people. Several Red Cross Red Crescent mobile medical clinics are operating and a 60-bed field hospital is on its way to Cox’s Bazar to provide more medical care for people, with the capacity for an isolation unit for any diarrhoeal disease outbreak. The field hospital will also provide life-saving emergency obstetric surgery. Psychosocial support services will be integrated into the clinic and hospital services.

The Bangladesh Red Crescent is the country’s leading humanitarian organisation. It has a strong presence in Cox’s Bazar, and is working closely with the government of Bangladesh and Red Cross Red Crescent stakeholders involved in the humanitarian response, including UN agencies.

IFRC is appealing for 12.7 million Swiss francs to support 100,000 people in Cox’s Bazar.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – the Myanmar Red Cross, Bangladesh Red Crescent, IFRC and ICRC – is scaling up operations in Myanmar and Bangladesh, including in border areas.

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