May 8 (UPI) — The United Nations announced Tuesday it is launching a campaign to vaccinate Rohingya refugees at growing risk of cholera as monsoon season begins in Bangladesh.
Dr. Richard Brennan, director of emergency operations at the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency, said the majority of refugees from Myanmar live in “overcrowded … unsanitary camps” in Bangladesh. There are nearly 900,000 living in the border town of Cox’s Bazar.
Though the mortality rate at the camp has been low, Brennan warned the upcoming rainy season could spread disease.
“We are looking down the barrel of the monsoon season with the inherent risk of flooding, landslides, as well as the cyclone season,” he said.
The WHO is relaunching a vaccination project among the refugees — there was an earlier inoculation drive in October and November shortly after the establishment of the refugee camp.
In addition to vaccines, Brennan said the agency needs to focus on clean water and sanitation facilities to protect against water-borne diseases. He said WHO needs $915 million to help the Rohingya refugees, of which about 16 percent has been funded.
The Rohingya are an ethnic minority group — most of whom are Muslim — from Myanmar, where most people are Buddhist. The Myanmese government has denied citizenship to the Rohingya since the 1980s and most of the 1.1 million of them in Myanmar have lived in the coastal state of Rakhine, where they’re not permitted to leave.
Violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar has prompted most to flee to Bangladesh.