Cholera outbreaks in Yemen.
 
The Ebola crisis in West Africa.
 
Zika virus hitting mums and babies across Latin America.
 
We’ve seen the headlines, worried about the death tolls or even wondered if our own lives could be at risk.  
 
Epidemics of infectious diseases are occurring more often and spreading faster and further than ever in many regions of the world.

But why do epidemics happen?

Three main conditions can collide to start an outbreak that spreads rapidly across entire regions. Communities affected by humanitarian emergencies like natural disasters or conflict are at particularly high risk. Here is why.
 

Extreme weather


During natural disasters like floods or cyclones, children and families face many dangers including injuries, separation and death. But they are also at high risk of disease.
 
Rains and floods create ideal conditions for mosquitoes to breed and spread diseases like malaria, dengue and yellow fever.  
 
Heavy rainfall can also contaminate water supplies, spreading cholera and diarrhoea. This is a serious danger right now in Bangladesh.
 
The arrival of the monsoon rains to the Rohingya refugee camps threatens over 500,000 children who are living there after escaping extreme violence in Myanmar.
 
Children are at risk of diseases like diarrhoea and cholera. They are preventable but without immunisation they can be deadly.
 
UNICEF believes no child should die of a preventable disease. We procure vaccines for 45% of the world’s youngest children every year. Our teams go to incredible lengths to immunise children no matter where they are, from warzones in Syria to the Rohingya refugee camps.
© UNICEF/UN0208854/Sokol

UNICEF and partners helped launched a massive cholera vaccination campaign to immunise nearly one million Rohingya refugees and their host communities living in and around the camps.
 
“There are many health problems among the Rohingya communities. We have found several suspected measles cases. Routine immunisation is a priority to prevent measles outbreaks and other diseases,” says Dr. Helen Chakma, UNICEF Health Officer based in Bangladesh.

UNICEF staff like Helen are working around the clock to keep children safe from diseases, reaching thousands of children with life-saving vaccines.

 

Unsafe water and sanitation


Contaminated water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene also lead to disease outbreaks.  Millions of displaced children and families in temporary settlements live under these circumstances every day.
 
In Bangladesh, Rohingya refugee children live in makeshift shelters made of tarpaulins and bamboo, without adequate access to safe water, toilets and hygiene facilities.
 
They are at high risk of disease and the torrential rains will only make things worse.
 
The monsoon season is here. Rohingya children and families are battling the onset of the rains. They are doing everything they can to keep their families safe but the harsh weather is causing devastating landslides and floods, damaging shelters, food supplies and water systems.
 
UNICEF teams have been on the ground since day one, ensuring children and their families have continued access to safe water and sanitation.
 
So far in 2018, UNICEF has provided safe water to over 300,000 Rohingya refugees and given access to latrines and washing facilities to over 400,000.
Children collecting water in buckets Cox's Bazar district. The refugee camp does not have enough safe ground water for borehole wells. Instead, water is trucked in twice a day and there are long queues. © UNICEF/UN0216997/LeMoyne

 

Pre-existing diseases and low immunity


When communities already suffer from disease or a weakened immune systems, epidemics are more likely to emerge as disasters strike.
 
Young children are particularly vulnerable – their immune systems are not yet fully developed. And the risk increases when they’re malnourished. Without enough proper nutrition, a child’s immunity is low, leaving them at higher risk of disease and five times more likely to die from diarrhoea. 
 
Many Rohingya children have been deprived of decent food and health care for their whole lives. Now, they are sick, hungry and struggling every day in the harsh conditions of a crowded refugee camp.
 
UNICEF estimates that one in four Rohingya children here is malnourished. And during the monsoon, heavy rains, landslides and flooding will further impact their overall health and wellbeing.

UNICEF's nutrition centres offer a vital lifeline for children by screening and treating them for malnutrition and teaching new mothers how to breastfeed and give their babies the best possible start in life.
 
Our teams are also delivering vaccines to thousands of children throughout the camps. However our work is not possible if parents don’t know about the importance of immunising their children. 
© UNICEF/UN0200256/Saeed

“Many refugees have never heard about vaccination. They always welcome me into their homes but, at first, are usually a little suspicious about vaccination. It takes a few visits to persuade them of the benefits of immunisation,” says community health worker Justna Akther. She goes from door to door to raise awareness about primary health care and immunisation. 
 
One of the parents Justna visited was Taiyva, a mother of ten. “The vaccination is for our good health and we are happy that we got them,” she says.

UNICEF and partners are racing against time and the weather to provide life-saving vaccinations to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
 
Since day one we have prevented epidemics in the refugee camps and saved thousands of lives. But the monsoons will soon tear the camps apart and put children in grave danger once again. We need to act fast, but we can’t do it alone.
 

Help us stop epidemics


Every day UNICEF meets refugee children who still have a burning hope for the future. They are not giving up and neither can we.
 
We need your support now more than ever. Your generous donation will help us protect more children from preventable but deadly diseases. 
 
$50 can provide over 100 vaccines to protect children against measles. It can help to stop an epidemic.
 
Let refugees know we care. Help a child live with dignity and health. Help families face these new threat with courage and determination. Please donate now. 
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