by Nat Crewe; DRG Team Leader
Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh
When Shane and Amy picked up a severely malnourished child yesterday from Baggoha camp, they noted that it was a camp that we hadn’t even been in to yet, and from what they could see, it deserved a closer inspection. It also just so happens to be a camp that CARE, with whom we have an operational MOU, had asked us to scope out and assess the services of.
So the entire team made for Baggoha, then broke into two teams, spread out and went from shelter to shelter looking for patients. Meanwhile, I completed a systematic walk of the entire camp, assessing the services and plotting them on our system as I went.
It took half a day in the searing heat to cover the whole area. I even ended up treating my interpreter for heat stress…and he’s a local! What became apparent from our assessment was that, although quite well serviced, the latest official maps of the area (released just a couple of days ago), didn’t have the information that I gathered. I hope that by plotting the services that I came across – food distribution, small health clinics, counselling services and so forth – the vital information can now be distributed to the plethora of NGOs on the ground.
The teams making house calls came across quite a few patients. As we’ve been finding of late, the most usual presentations are the very young – newborns, babies and young children – with an assortment of skin conditions, fevers, colds and gastric upset.
There is also the other end of the spectrum – the elderly with respiratory conditions. Decades of cooking over wood fires in the common living areas takes its toll. Something you’ll find without fail in all developing countries, and backed up by our own research in the Backpacker Medics supported village in Nepal.
All the patients were treated in place before we headed back to Kutapalong 1, the seemingly never-ending camp just a little to the North. Immediately we were presented with a young lady in the early stages of labour. It just so happened that a British midwife was in attendance. We made ourselves available should there be any complications and there was a need to carry her out. Thankfully everything turned out smoothly and we were able to call it a day.
Readers may notice that we’re not seeing as many acute and emergency cases. As I’ve mentioned in a prior report, the refugee registration area also has a triage facility. As a result, the more seriously sick and injured people are being identified and transported to a medical facility before they reach the camps.
This, coupled with the easing of physically brutal tactics by the Myanmar military, means that serious wounds are less frequent. It is the common consensus across all the medical facilities that we talk to that we are now entering the next phase of this crisis. Close to a million people crammed into overcrowded camps with very little access to basic services – clean water, fresh food, adequate health care. They are coming. Slowly. But every day we are seeing the same things- measles, skin conditions, diarrhoea, fever, respiratory conditions. Whilst gunshot and machete wounds look brutal, make no mistake: here, all of these things will kill you.
So what does this mean for the Disaster Response Group, who specialise in being a highly mobile and effective emergency medical team? Well, as we have proved in Nepal, we are also very good at identifying a need, and coming up with a solution.
The Rohingya people in these camps desperately need access to services of all kinds. The camps are huge and sprawling, covering dozens of square kilometres, with little concrete information about the location and capabilities of essential services. We are already working with local community members to build a network of volunteer helpers that will access every corner of the camps to connect the people who need it, with the service they require.
Before we leave on Wednesday, we will have already trained a number of camp members with this task in mind. This means that, although not here physically, the DRG work can continue. We then hope to build on this model when we return in December.
If you would like to help our mission, you can donate to the Backpacker Medics cause here: https://chuffed.org/project/bpmdrg-bangladesh#/supporters