Following violence in Myanmar in August 2017, many Rohingya refugees arrived in Bangladesh with wounds, injuries, or weak with sickness. They also arrived with low vaccination coverage rates and malnutrition, and demonstrated poor health-seeking behaviour shaped by their experiences in Myanmar. Key indicators such as Crude Mortality Rate initially exceeded the emergency threshold in 2017.
The Government of Bangladesh, UNHCR and humanitarian partners, have made efforts to stabilise the refugees’ health status and reduce mortality rates. However, risk factors such as overcrowded refugee settlements, lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), potential disease outbreaks and poor health seeking behavior, made it critical to continuously improve and expand healthcare services for refugees, and work in collaboration with other sectors such as WASH, nutrition and protection. Equally important has been the need to embed the health response in community-based outreach.
UNHCR works with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Refugee Health Unit (RHU) of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), and other partners to strengthen health infrastructure and provide healthcare services to refugees. Curative and preventive health services are provided through 22 health facilities supported by UNHCR.
More than 300 trained Community Health Workers (CHWs), which include the refugees and Bangladeshi people, are reaching out to their communities to raise awareness on various health issues – such as newborn care by new mothers and infectious diseases prevention, identifying health cases and providing referrals to appropriate services. A 24/7 ambulance service is now available through a medical referral for transporting critically ill refugees to hospital services outside the refugee settlements. UNHCR leads the Community Health Working Group in Cox’s Bazar which is instrumental in coordinating outreach activities in refugee settlements with other health partners.