"I didn’t understand what a vaccine was. I just heard that they can leave permanent marks on the skin and cause fever." Tasmin, 24, pregnant mother of two children
Tasmin’s perception of vaccines is fairly common among her fellow Rohingya refugees in Kutupalong, Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee camp. With limited access to accurate health information, misunderstandings and false rumors can travel rapidly within the community.
Mohammad Taher is a Rohingya Community Immunization Volunteer supported by Community Partners International (CPI) and Green Hill in the world's largest refugee camp in Bangladesh. Each day, he visits households in his neighborhood to help pregnant and women and young children get vaccinated against deadly diseases.
Ayesha and Jannat are Rohingya refugees from Myanmar sheltering in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. They fled violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State in 2017 with their families, walking for many days to reach the Bangladesh border. Today, they live in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp. Both receive assistance from networks of Rohingya community health and water, sanitation and hygiene volunteers supported by Community Partners International (CPI). Here are their stories.
In Kachin State, Myanmar, nearly 100,000 people live in displacement camps. Some have been there for 10 years or more, forced to flee their homes due to the conflict that continues to rage in this restive and contested region. COVID-19 is now spreading rapidly in Myanmar and the country has one of the world’s weakest health systems. The cramped and crowded conditions in displacement camps make residents especially vulnerable.
"We have a real opportunity here to push back hepatitis B. With the right approach, we can free a generation of children in Myanmar from this debilitating and deadly virus.”
Seven years ago, Khin Aye went for a routine prenatal check-up while pregnant with her first child. The hospital staff conducted a blood test. “When the test came back, they told me I had hepatitis B.”
With support from the Access to Health Fund, Community Partners International is working with ethnic and community-based health organizations in Myanmar to improve community health facilities. This initiative is helping to refurbish and equip 16 facilities so that they can deliver a basic essential package of health services to conflict-affected, hard-to-reach and under-served communities.
Ma Hnin, 26, lives in South Dagon township, a suburb to the northeast of Yangon, Myanmar's commercial capital. Ma Hnin’s family moved to South Dagon six years ago from a village further east. “It is easier to earn money in Yangon. That’s why my family moved here,” she says. Ma Hnin lives together with her parents, husband and two children - a three-year-old daughter and three-month-old son. Her husband and father both work for a local saw mill. Just over three years ago, when she was pregnant with her first child, Ma Hnin found out that she was hepatitis B positive.
Meredith Walsh (back row, fourth from right), CPI Board Chair Dr. Tom Lee (second row, third from left) and CPI Board Member Dr. Adam Richards (second row, second from left) with CPI Bangladesh staff and Community Health Volunteers in Cox's Bazar in June 2019. Photo: Reza Shahriar Rahman for Community Partners International
Meredith Walsh, Community Partners International (CPI)’s Country Director in Bangladesh, reflects on the last 20 months working to support Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.
I arrived in Bangladesh in early November 2017 to help Community Partners International (CPI) set up operations in Cox’s Bazar. Just over two months earlier, this small sliver of land squeezed between Rakhine State in western Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal, became the world’s largest refugee camp virtually overnight.
Health providers in Myanmar are continuing efforts to contain a nationwide measles outbreak that has infected more than 1,300 people and led to the death of one child. The Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) has launched supplementary immunization campaigns in affected states and regions, but low immunization coverage in many communities across the country poses a significant challenge to measles control.
For children who become infected with measles, vitamin A deficiency due to undernourishment is a recognized risk factor that can lead to severe measles. In Kawkareik Township, Kayin State, Myanmar, the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW) and the MoHS District Health Department are cooperating to ensure that children under five receive vitamin A supplements to help prevent severe measles in case of infection.
On February 15, 2019, around 50 pregnant and reproductive-age women in the Yangon suburb of South Dagon, Myanmar, gathered to learn about the hepatitis B virus (HBV), including the nature of HBV, transmission pathways, treatment options and prevention. This health education session was part of a pilot study, led by Community Partners International (CPI) in collaboration with the Myanmar Liver Foundation (MLF) and the B. K. Kee Foundation, to develop a workable and effective community-based model to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HBV in low-income peri-urban communities in Myanmar.