The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Emergency Levels Of Child Malnutrition Coupled With Disease Outbreaks In Cox's Bazar, According To New Survey

Refugee population in Bangladesh severely vulnerable to outbreaks of disease.


A nutrition assessment released today by humanitarian agencies in Cox's Bazar reveals malnutrition rates above the global emergency threshold of 15%, indicating a serious public health problem for children under five in Bangladesh. The survey, led by International Rescue Committee partner Action Contre la Faim (ACF), confirms the IRC's previous warning of a public health crisis looming in Cox's Bazar - only exacerbated by as many as 4,000 continuing arrivals a week.

The vast majority of children - as much as 94% as revealed by the survey - from as little as 6 months of age to 2 years are not able to access a minimum acceptable diet, compounding malnutrition rates. What's more, according to IRC experts in the field, an outbreak of diphtheria has been confirmed, a major cause of illness and death in children, a as well as increasing caseloads of measles, acute watery diarrhea, and jaundice - which may suggest the beginning of an outbreak of Hepatitis E.

Michelle Gayer, the IRC's director of emergency health programs said: "Acute malnutrition, if left untreated, coupled with an infectious disease, can be a death sentence for a child. It is clear that a public health disaster may be underway - an entirely plausible threat in Cox's Bazar where 95% of the population lacks clean water, new people continue to arrive into unsanitary living conditions, and pre-existing basic vaccination for diseases such as measles, diphtheria and whooping cough has been dangerously low. We have seen a tripling in caseload in a month in health clinics.

We are now in a race against the clock to urgently improve access to treatment for acute malnutrition and infectious diseases, increase the number of children vaccinated, and improve access to safe water and sanitation in the settlements to avert escalation of life-threatening illness for an already uniquely vulnerable population."

IRC health and nutrition experts are available for interview in Cox's Bazar and New York.

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world's worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.