Rohingya crisis: A mammoth task takes shape

 German nurse Heidi Anguria is in Bangladesh, working for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) inside the Kutupalong refugee camp - home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people who have fled violence in Myanmar. Here, in her fourth blog, she shares how her team are preparing to help vaccinate almost one million people against cholera.

I’m sitting here with a nice mint lemonade while I write another blog – my end of the working week ritual.

Due to the workload, a week goes by very fast here.

In the evenings, I’m often really tired. This is partly because of the work, but also because of the great heat and the long distances that we travel throughout the camp.

Still, I’m happy every morning to see my team. They are all just lovely. I try desperately to get everyone’s names in my head and to learn at least some Bengali… but sadly my skills are still very limited.

We are still trying to identify any remaining people who have had contact with diphtheria and to vaccinate them. I’m also busy controlling the cold chain supply of the vaccines - that means ensuring they arrive with us and are stored at the correct temperatures. Lots of vaccines stop being effective if they get too hot, so keeping them cool is really important. Once I know they've been transported and stored correctly, I have to ensure the vaccinations are administered correctly across our five health posts and two clinics.

On top of all this, I also take care of all documentation, input the data on the computer, and contribute to the monthly medical report. And much more!

Vaccinating a million people against Cholera

Soon, our biggest cholera vaccination ever will start. We plan to vaccinate 985,000 people.

It requires incredible logistics to plan everything and to have sufficient staff for the implementation. This is being led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health with the help of many more organisations.

We are mainly in charge of the mobilisation. This means going out into the community: people have to know why they need to be vaccinated as well as what they need to be vaccinated against. The procedures also need to be explained and understood – who has to be where and at what time.

After that, our outreach workers’ daily business will be running from door to door, accompanying people and making sure that everyone arrives ready at the vaccination posts.

Like many supervisors, I will be busy walking through the camp monitoring the work of the vaccination teams and sorting out all the different problems that will eventually come up.

I’m really curious about the whole process and I hope that together we will be successful.

The early rains

In the meantime, the first of the monsoon rains have already started. Already, the first landslides have happened, affecting the huts on higher ground. There were also the first injuries.

I cannot imagine what it will be like when the rainy season is in full swing.   

Sadly there has been more unpleasant news. In the MSF project where I worked in August last year (not in Bangladesh), and where my friend is now working – a robbery took place.

Thank God nothing worse happened. Of course, there will never be such thing as absolute security – not even for humanitarian aid workers or medical facilities – but in my personal opinion that must not be an excuse to not do our job.

In hope of better news next week, I close for today and wish you all a nice weekend – mine is almost over. 

If you live in the UK, please donate to MSF UK’s winter 2018 appeal to support our work with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

If you live elsewhere in the world, please click here to make a donation.