Direct Relief and HOPE Hospital Bring Health Care to Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Medical staff care for an infant and mother in a HOPE Hospital medical outreach clinic in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Direct Relief is supporting the clinics serving Rohingya refugees by equipping them with critical medications and medical supplies. (Photo courtesy of HOPE Hospital)

Since Aug. 25, over half a million Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State for an area just slightly south of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and those who made it across the border to Bangladesh are in desperate need of medical care.

An elderly person is carried by others in a Rohingya settlement in Cox’s Bazar. A high percentage of those fleeing Myanmar are socially vulnerable, including the very young as well as elderly people with significant medical needs. (Photo courtesy of HOPE Hospital)

Many refugees have recounted horrifying experiences of sexual violence and physical abuse, and immediately following the escalation of violence in the region, Direct Relief contacted longstanding partner, HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh. The Foundation manages HOPE Hospital in Cox’s Bazar and now, in response to the sudden influx of refugees, operates field clinics in refugee camps and informal tent settlements.

Click the map above to explore Rohingya settlements and Hope Hospital medical outreach sites serving refugee patients. (Map by Andrew Schroeder/Direct Relief)

Sixty percent of new Rohingya refugee arrivals are children. And with tens of thousands of pregnant and lactating mothers now residing near Cox’s Bazar, HOPE focuses on antenatal and postnatal care, safe deliveries, and child health and nutrition.  In addition to their focus on maternal and child health, HOPE is building a field hospital where Rohingya patients can receive more comprehensive care.

This chart shows the volume of patients seen over the past month at the Hope Hospital medical outreach sites. The blue line represents patients seeking prenatal and antenatal care. Patients visit primarily for pregnancy and infant care. More than 26,000 patients have received care at the sites in the last month, a quarter of which are for pregnancy and infant care. (Chart by Andrew Schroeder/Direct Relief)

On Friday, Oct. 13, Direct Relief dispatched a 5-ton donation of medical supplies specifically requested by the medical team at HOPE Hospital. The goods are due to arrive in Cox’s Bazar within days.

Shipments bound for Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, left Direct Relief’s warehouse earlier this month. (Andrew Fletcher/Direct Relief)

The donation includes:

  • 18 durable, medical-grade, all-weather tents – The Rohingya are restricted from traveling outside their camp for medical care, so HOPE Hospital is bringing medical care to the camp. These tents will serve as reproductive health units, birthing centers, and primary care clinics.
  • Oral rehydration salts – Many refugees walk for 10 days or more before reaching a settlement and most are severely dehydrated when they arrive. Oral rehydration salts help to replace essential fluids and electrolytes.
  • Water filtration units – A refugee camp of well over half a million people that develops so quickly has little to no infrastructure. Clean drinking water is almost impossible to find.
  • Solar lighting – No infrastructure also means no electricity. Medical care must be provided 24/7 and light is required to provide safe, effective care.
  • Prenatal vitamins – Most pregnant women arrive in Bangladesh malnourished. The small, limited, food rations provided to them do not supply all of the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy delivery.
  • Personal protective gear for medical professionals – Doctors, nurses and midwives need supplies like gloves to ensure they can safely tend to the medical needs of their patients.
  • Sutures, surgical instruments and instrument sterilizers – HOPE Hospital can transport patients to their facility in Cox’s Bazar to conduct surgery if necessary. When their field hospital is in operation (most likely before the end of the month), they will be able to perform minor surgeries there as well.
  • Personal care items – Good personal hygiene is integral to good health, however, items as basic as soap are oftentimes hard to find in refugee situations.
  • Diagnostic supplies, needles and syringes, IV sets – Medical supplies are needed for a wide array of issues, ranging from respiratory infections to dermatitis to traumatic physical injuries.

Medical needs abound for Rohingya women and children living in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ravikant Singh/Doctors for You)

Thousands of Rohingya refugees continue to pour into Bangladesh every day. Many have lost absolutely everything.  As camps become increasingly crowded the situation only worsens.  Rohingya with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes or asthma will need their daily medication.  New arrivals with trauma-related injuries will need immediate medical attention and follow-up care.  Malnourished mothers and children will need nutritional supplements.  Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression will be exacerbated by the ongoing stress.

Direct Relief will continue to collaborate with local partners in Bangladesh that are providing services to Rohingya refugees and will do everything possible to deliver critically needed medicines and medical supplies to a population that is facing incredible uncertainty and hardship.

Six medical outreach sites have been set up by HOPE Hospital in Cox’s Bazar, each with the goal of addressing the health needs of refugees. (Photo courtesy of HOPE Hospital)