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Press Release

Risk of “potentially catastrophic” water-borne disease outbreak grows by the day as malnutrition rises among displaced Rohingya

Posted on: 28 Sep 17

Cox’s Bazar, Sept. 28, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Poor access to clean drinking water and basic health services, coupled with frequent monsoon rains, has sparked growing concern of an outbreak of water-borne diseases like cholera among Rohingyas who fled persecution and violence in Myanmar.

Reducing the risk of an outbreak, which could spread rapidly through crowded camps and informal settlements, requires a rapid scale up of basic health services, alongside improved access to latrines, clean drinking water and basic hygiene items, Save the Children is warning.

According to IOM and government figures from the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) in Bangladesh, the number of new arrivals is now 480,000. More than 4,500 newly arrived Rohingya in the Bangladesh district of Cox’s Bazar have already been treated for diarrhea and many others for dehydration, while the World Health Organization this week warned of a “very high” risk of a cholera outbreak.

At least 14,000 cases of malnutrition have also been reported amongst children, who are significantly more vulnerable to contracting and dying from disease.

“Right now we’re seeing the absolute perfect breeding ground for a major health crisis. There are tens of thousands of people still sleeping out in the open or under makeshift shelters, there is dirty, contaminated water everywhere, and poor nutrition and hygiene levels,” Canadian aid worker and Save the Children humanitarian manager Kyle Degraw said from Cox’s Bazar.

“Most have also witnessed some level of violence as well as a frightening escape from their homes and are in need of emotional care and support.

“And while Bangladeshi authorities and aid agencies are working around the clock to meet the needs, the speed and scale of the influx of Rohingya and the ongoing rains have meant we’re playing catch up.”

Save the Children is preparing to dispatch up to nine health teams in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, where more than 430,000 Rohingya have fled to in just over a month.

The aid agency’s Emergency Health Unit team, which deploys to the frontline of major emergencies around the world, has been carrying out a rapid health assessment with newly arrived Rohingya while working in close collaboration with local authorities, the Ministry of Health and relief agencies.

Save the Children has also been speeding up its distributions, including basic hygiene items like soaps, diapers and buckets to help people keep clean, as well as handing out food, water purification tablets, basic kitchen utensils and tarpaulins for shelter, but needs remain great.

“Any outbreak of disease in these fragile conditions, where people are staying in cramped spaces close to one another, could spread quickly and would be potentially catastrophic,” Degraw said.

“We’re extremely concerned about the health of children, particularly those under five years of age who are still in their earliest stages of development, as well as pregnant and nursing mothers. We will continue collaborating with the government in our work to reach these extremely vulnerable groups.”

Save the Children is calling on the international community, including the Canadian government, to urgently step up funding for the humanitarian response to the crisis.

“Canada’s initial contributions of $3.55 million since the latest wave of displacement on August 25 have been welcome, but more is urgently needed to respond to spiraling need,” said Degraw, originally from Abbotsford, British Colombia.

The mass displacement follows an alarming escalation of violence since August 25 in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, where there have been disturbing reports of homes being burned and hundreds of people, including children, being killed.



Originally from Abbotsford, B.C., Kyle Degraw joined Save the Children Canada in Toronto in 2012, before moving to the international humanitarian team in 2014. Since then Kyle has worked across a variety of emergencies, including the hunger crises in East Africa, the 2015 Nepal earthquake, displacement crisis in El Salvador, and the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh.



For media inquiries including setting up interviews with Kyle Degraw in Bangladesh contact:

Annie Bodmer-Roy at 613-854-9074

Cicely McWilliam at 416-218-1888

Notes to editor:

  • Save the Children has been supporting the long-term needs of displaced Rohingya families in and around Cox’s Bazar prior to the outbreak of violence on August 25. The aid agency is now scaling up its relief work, and has distributed hundreds of shelter kits, set up ‘child friendly spaces’ to support children’s emotional wellbeing and provide a safe space to play, and is running child protection services and providing support to unaccompanied children. It is working to expand these operations significantly.
  •  In Rakhine State, Myanmar, Save the Children provides assistance to both Rohingya living in camps for internally placed people in Sittwe and in Pauktaw, and for Rakhine communities in Pauktaw. Save the Children does not have access to the areas of northern Rakhine State which are affected by conflict.
  • The Canadian government has contributed $3.55 million CAD in humanitarian assistance to the crisis since August 25. During the emergency debate on the Rohingya crisis in Parliament on Tuesday evening, numerous MPs called for the government to increase its funding to the response.


A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

CONTACT: Annie Bodmer-Roy Save the Children 613-854-9074 GlobeNewswire

Last updated on: 29/09/2017

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