Diphtheria, a disease that is largely unknown and thought to be eradicated has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. The foremost among the places is Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh amongst the Rohingya refugees. Amidst limited resources, Bangladeshi authorities are trying their best to deal with the crisis.
One of the victims is Mohammad Farooq who is suffering from diphtheria, which is a bacterial infection with symptoms of swelling of the neck, difficulties in swallowing, a sore throat, and high fever.
“I couldn’t breathe. My head was paining … my body was shaking,” Mohammad said lying on the bed at the clinic run by the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) aid group. However, Mohammad’s mother, Noor Begum, is hopeful as he is under treatment of a doctor.
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Mohammad has been given antitoxin at the clinic, which is vital in treating the diseases, especially the ones that are severe. He is also detected early and treated in the early stage of the infection.
“He is now better and I’m so grateful to the doctors,” Noor said looking at her son who looked weak, as he lay covered by a grey blanket. “They’ve taken great care of us and we are so happy.”
However, everybody could not be given antitoxin as the supply is short.
Chiara Burzio, a nurse and the medical officer in charge of the diphtheria center, said, “Unfortunately the criteria needs to be a little bit strict because we need to be able to give it to the really severe cases.”
Thus, everyone is not as lucky as Mohammad, as they could not get the vital antitoxin needed to cure the disease. The result is 38 deaths due to diphtheria in the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar.
Apart from Cox’s Bazar, Venezuela and Yemen are the other two places where new cases of diphtheria are reported.
“It’s quite an unknown epidemic because we are not used to having diphtheria anymore. So it’s a new thing,” said Burzio, who has previously worked in Liberia and Guinea during the Ebola crisis and war-torn Syria as part of MSF missions.
The pitiful conditions of the Rohingya refugees need to be highlighted at the global stage. It will fetch the much-needed resources for their treatment and better living conditions from the individual donor countries and international organizations. If it fails to raise the eyebrows of the Western countries, at least the OIC nations can be expected to come forward for the just cause.
It is suspected that diphtheria resurfaced in Bangladesh because of lack of prevention of the disease in Myanmar. That adds to the shame of Aung San Suu Kyi and her government over and above what they have done to the Rohingyas, who are their own countrymen.