Bangladesh: A battle against the clock for the sickest children

More than ten thousand children who have fled from Rakhine are so weakened that they can die. The first patients have been treated at the field hospital Red Cross has opened in Cox's Bazar.

"For many of the weakest and sickest children, there is a fight against the clock because the living conditions are so miserable. The field hospital, which opened on Monday the 16th will provide life-saving healthcare to the poorest," says General Secretary Bernt G. Apeland in the Red Cross.

Health personnel reporting from the field are concerned by the present situation amongst the youngest which is extremely critical due to a deadly combination of fatigue, illness, malnutrition and diarrhea. Many children risk death if not treated immediately.

The situation is also critical for many adults who have been injured during the flight from Rakhine or are weakened by the poor living conditions in the camps.

Little Muhamed, eight months old was the first patient to be operated at the Norwegian-led field hospital at Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. He had a collapsed lung and overpressure in the thoracic cavity, but is now recovering due to proper health care at the field hospital. Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma / Red Cross

Fear of epidemics

"We fear a worsening of the state of health to the refugees because many are exhausted from living under such poor living conditions, because many more are on their way here and because many are threatened if epidemics like cholera break out," says Apeland, Secretary General in the Norwegian Red Cross.

The Red Cross movement has updated the crisis in Bangladesh to the highest crisis level globally.

The felts hospital opened amid half a million new refugees who have come since the violence started in late August and half a million who have fled earlier or are from the original population.

"This will be the first fully functioning hospital in the camps, and will also support the mobile health centers of Bangladesh Red Crescent and other health measures in the camps," said Mozharul Huq, Secretary General of Bangladesh Red Crescent.

The nearest hospitals are half an hour away and are already over-crowded. The Field hospital is also available to refugees who are not allowed to leave the area.

-Some of the worst conditions we have worked in

"These are some of the worst conditions we have worked in. Our field hospital is now set up to help patients with both life-threatening conditions and the more common diseases," says team leader Peter Meyer in the Red Cross.

He is responsible for building and starting the hospital from the Red Cross in Norway and Finland. It is run alongside Bangladesh Red Crescent, and will have a mix of national and international employees from the Red Cross in Norway, Finland and several other countries.

The hospital can accommodate up to 60 bed patients and can additionally treat up to 40 patients extra in case of a cholera outbreak. In addition, 500-1000 will be medically screened and receive day care where it is needed.

The hospital can carry everything from operations to complicated births and other basic hospital services.

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