Diphtheria treatment center opens in Bangladesh

January 3, 2018 • Bangladesh
Diphtheria patient

Samaritan's Purse is responding to the outbreak of diphtheria among Rohingya refugees.

Rohingya Relief

After fleeing and surviving horrific violence, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are now facing a new threat—a diphtheria outbreak that has already infected thousands and claimed more than two dozen lives.

The highly contagious and dangerous disease poses a serious risk to vulnerable refugees who are living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions due to the unprecedented influx of more than 655,000 Rohingyans into Bangladesh from Myanmar since last August.

Samaritan’s Purse is responding by sending medical staff from Canada and around the world to Bangladesh.

Canadian nurses are currently serving and training local staff in a newly opened 50-bed treatment center in Bangladesh, which is constructed and operated by Samaritan’s Purse.

The center began accepting patients on Dec. 31.

“We anticipate that we will largely be caring for young children and will be referred the most serious cases,” says Raija-Liisa Schmitt-Teigen, a Canadian member of the Samaritan’s Purse disaster assistance response team (DART) in Bangladesh. “Everyone is very positive about our work here, and our staff are trained and equipped to treat people at the center.”

Rohingya diphtheria outbreak

The diphtheria center has already received over 100 patients within a few days of opening.

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the mucous membranes making it difficult to breathe and swallow. Children are especially susceptible, and most have yet to be immunized against this disease. If left untreated, the illness can cause irreversible kidney, nervous system, and heart damage—and can be fatal.

In early December, Samaritan’s Purse also delivered 20 tons of medical supplies to Memorial Christian Hospital in Bangladesh and provided funds to build two surgical wards to care for thousands of Rohingya patients.

In additional to physical care, Christian medical staff are providing spiritual care by offering to pray with patients and responding to questions about the Christian faith.

“Jesus met people in their physical and spiritual needs,” says Maranatha, a 26-year-old nurse from Montreal currently serving at the Samaritan’s Purse diphtheria treatment center in Bangladesh. “God has called us to go and heal in Jesus’ Name.”

Whether Samaritan’s Purse Canada is treating diphtheria patients in Bangladesh or supporting Christian hospitals in Africa, your donations and prayers provide help and healing in Jesus’ Name.