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UN starts cholera vaccinations in Bangladesh among Rohingya

By Rishabh R. Jain Associated Press 

THAINGKHALI, Bangladesh — UN agencies and Bangladesh’s health ministry began a massive cholera immunization campaign Tuesday to stem a possible outbreak of the water-borne disease among more than a half million Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh.

No cases of the potentially life-threatening diarrheal disease have yet appeared in makeshift camps in Bangladesh.

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UNICEF said the vaccination campaign involves 900,000 doses of the vaccine delivered by more than 200 mobile teams, making it the second-largest oral vaccination campaign of its kind, after another in Haiti last year. The campaign will also target residents of older refugee camps that have existed in Bangladesh since the 1990s.

The World Health Organization has tallied some 10,000 cases of diarrhea among the refugees, and says unhygienic conditions raise the potential for a cholera outbreak.

Waves of Rohingya Muslims have crossed over to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when security forces in Buddhist-majority Myanmar responded to militant attacks with a broad crackdown that the UN has described as ‘‘textbook ethnic cleansing.’’

The UN refugee agency says Bangladeshi border guards reported over 11,000 Rohingya crossed the border on Monday.

In the southern parts of Bangladesh they have joined hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who were already living in miserable conditions in tightly packed camps. Now with hundreds of thousands more people, the pressure on what little resources the old camps had is incredible.