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As thousands of Rohingya refugees including many children having fled violence in Myanmar continue to arrive in Bangladesh, a United Nations-supported vaccination campaign has been initiated to prevent the spread of potentially deadly diseases.

According to anews releaseby the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the agency and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) are supporting the Bangladeshi Ministry of Health-led campaign targeting measles, rubella and polio to inoculate some 150,000 Rohingya children below the age of fifteen in 68 refugee settlements near the country’s border with Myanmar.

We are happy that we were able to initiate the immunization campaign so quickly to protect the population from a possible measles outbreak said Navaratnasamy Paranietharan, the head of WHO in Bangladesh.

The seven-day campaign was planned by the UN health agency, which is also managing and monitoring its field implementation. UNICEF has provided vaccines, syringes and Vitamin A capsules.

Measles is a very infectious and dangerous disease during emergencies, especially for children who are already weak and malnourished, added Edouard Beigbeder, the head of UNICEF in Bangladesh.

With thousands of children crossing the border every day, vaccination is crucial to prevent the spread of potentially deadly diseases.

In addition to the vaccination campaign, the two UN agencies are also helping the Government reinforce maternal, new-born, child and adolescent health services; renovate delivery and new-born care units; improve water, sanitation and hygiene in health facilities; and strengthen disease surveillance, early warning and health-related information systems.

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees sit at Shamlapur beach in Cox’s Bazar district, Bangladesh, after traveling for five hours in a boat across the open waters of the Bay of Bengal. Photo: UNICEF/Brown

According to estimates, some 380,000 Rohingya refugees, fleeing violence in Myanmar, have crossed the border into Bangladesh since 25 August.

The humanitarian situation in parts of Bangladesh sheltering hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees continues to deteriorate, making the crisis one of the fastest growing refugee crises of recent years, according to the United Nations.

[The crisis is] creating enormous humanitarian needs in an area of Bangladesh already affected by earlier refugee influxes, recent floods and not equipped to cope with large numbers of new arrivals, Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told the media.

Mr. Mahecic also noted that Bangladeshi communities have shown remarkable generosity, welcoming refugees into their homes and sharing resources with them.

However, as the number of new arrivals continues, UN agencies are in urgent need of additional funds to provide protection and life-saving assistance.

Among them, UNHCR has appealed for an initial amount of $30 million for its emergency response in the country until the end of year.

Similarly, UNICEF made an initial appeal for $7.3 million over three months, including almost $3 million for water and sanitation alone, but that amount was calculated on the basis of 200,000 people and that number had now doubled.

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