Humanitarian Emergencies, Migration Health, Refugee and Asylum Issues, Rohingya Crisis

Cox’s Bazar – Medics with the UN Migration Agency (IOM) have now carried out more than 400,000 consultations in Cox’s Bazar Bangladesh since late August 2017 when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees started fleeing into the area to escape violence in Myanmar.

Nine months after the influx of new arrivals began, bringing the total number of refugees in the area to almost one million, IOM is one of the largest medical care providers in Cox Bazar, supporting patients from the refugee and local communities with medical concerns ranging from pregnancy related complications to injuries from road traffic accidents. In the past four months alone, IOM has carried out over 4,300 consultations relating to accident and injury.

More than one in 10 consultations conducted in IOM clinics were with children under the age of five. In the past four months, IOM staff have conducted over 13,000 ante-natal consultations and assisted over 700 local and refugee women deliver their babies safely, including via caesarian section (C-section). In May alone, 10 newborns were successfully delivered by C-section at an IOM funded surgical facility.

Without urgent financial backing, these services will soon be brought to a halt. And with months of monsoon rains about to create even more health hazards for the refugee population, medical staff are ready to see an even bigger demand for their services.

“Conducting 400,000 curative consultations in nine months is an immense achievement that shows the crucial role of IOM medical facilities for the refugee and local communities. But without urgent funding we won’t be able to carry on,” said IOM’s Emergency Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar Manuel Periera.

“If that happens, hundreds of thousands of cases will likely be left untreated in the months ahead and we face the grim possibility of many avoidable deaths,” he added.

And according to Dr. Mohammad Abdus Salam, Civil Surgeon of Cox’s Bazar district, “IOM is doing a massive work in addressing the health issues of refugees and host communities. We highly appreciate their contribution in assisting the government to address the health crisis that affected the district following the August influx.”

“IOM has established hospitals and community clinics both for the refugee and host communities. They’ve strengthen the government health complexes as well. Without IOM’s support, we wouldn’t be so much successful in addressing the influx induced health crisis in Cox’s Bazar,” he added.

IOM’s Kutupalong Extension Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC) acts as a delivery centre for the Kutupalong Mega Settlement, in addition to seeing over 200 patients per day for general outpatient consultations. In May, an expectant mother experienced an extended labour in her home so was carried to the PHCC by some of IOM’s Health Promotors.

Upon arriving at the PHCC, the medical officers determined she was suffering from obstructed labour and called IOM’s Emergency Hotline for ambulance referral. The ambulance arrived and delivered the expectant mother to an IOM funding surgical facility, where a C-section was performed. Both mother and baby returned to their home healthy and safe for being able to avail these life-saving services.

IOM’s clinics and medical staff play a key role in Cox’s Bazar in overseeing referrals and ambulance transfers. The patients, whatever condition they present with, are taken to whichever clinic or hospital in the area is best suited to meet their particular needs.

Patients with conditions including pre-eclampsia, severe malnutrition, serious pregnancy related complications, cardiovascular disease and severe fevers are among those who have been supported in this way by IOM.

Dr Raisul Islam, who has worked at Kutupalong PHCC since before the influx, was one of the doctors involved in the referral of the expectant mother. “At the start of the influx many of the new arrivals came with injuries relating to violence such as gunshot wounds, burns, blasts, and gender based violence. These kinds of cases have decreased, but there’s been no reduction in the number of patients we’re seeing,” he said.

“Now we are likely to have even more cases, because of the probable increase of acute watery diarrhea and even cholera during monsoon. However as long as we have enough funding IOM is prepared to combat such difficult situations as we did successfully during the diphtheria outbreak,” Dr. Islam added.

Life in the over-crowded camps puts refugees at particular risk of communicable disease, including those relating to poor sanitation.

IOM medics were central in helping tackle an outbreak of the deadly disease Diphtheria since November 2017, supporting direct patient treatment in isolation wards as well as contact tracing in the camps to allow those who had come close to infected patients to receive prophylaxis. This was crucial in helping restrict the spread of the disease.

Ongoing vaccination, standby mobile medical teams, and health education outreach programmes conducted by IOM continue to play a vital role in preventing disease outbreaks. Any reduction or cessation of these services would have a devastating effect on the health system in the camps.

“I am immensely proud of the hard work of all our IOM staff on the ground providing life-saving and day to day medical care day and night for months on end to a population in desperate need of support,” said Dr.  Andrew Mbala, IOM’s Health Emergency Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar.

“But we are now facing the desperate situation that the good work we’ve been doing could soon be brought to a standstill because of finding shortages and our patients left to suffer conditions which if left untreated could led to avoidable deaths. This is a tragedy in the making which can be averted, but only if we receive urgent funding.”

IOM, as a partner working under the coordination of Inter Sector Working Group led by the World Health Organization (WHO), continues to appreciate the cooperation and determination of other agencies and partners in the collective endeavor to support the humanitarian health response in Cox’s Bazar.


For more information please contact IOM Cox’s Bazar:

Manuel Pereira, IOM Bangladesh, Tel: +8801885946996, Email:

Shirin Akhter, Tel: +880 341 52195, +8801711187499, Email: