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Nurses among emergency medical team flying out to Bangladesh refugee camp

UK health professionals respond to a deadly outbreak of diphtheria among 600,000 Rohingya people.

UK health professionals respond to a deadly outbreak of diphtheria among 600,000 Rohingya refugees.

  • Team will include nurses, midwives, GPs and firefighters
  • Number of diphtheria cases growing by about 160 a day
  • 75% of those affected are under 15 years

A dozen of a 40-strong emergency medical team, including nurses, will fly out to a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, in the south of Bangladesh, on 28 December after more than 2,000 suspected cases and 22 deaths were reported from the airborne virus.

The refugee camp houses 600,000 Rohingya people who have been displaced by violence in neighbouring Myanmar.

The rest of the team, which includes nurses, midwives, GPs and even firefighters who will advise on infrastructure improvements, will follow in the coming days.

Two of the team

Becky Platt, a children's services matron from Watford General Hospital, and Duncan Anderson, an emergency staff nurse from Birmingham, are among the team.

Becky Platt
Children's services matron Becky Platt

Ms Platt said: ‘We know that 75% of those affected are under the age of 15. They need medical care. This is a highly contagious, life-threatening, disease.

‘I have never done anything like this before, I've never been part of a humanitarian response team, but I’ve got 20 years experience as a paediatric nurse and I’m hoping that will stand me in good stead.’

First-time deployment for emergency medical team

Duncan Anderson
Emergency staff nurse Duncan Anderson

Mr Anderson said: ‘It’s marrying what I know after working 20-odd years in the NHS and now putting it into good use for humanitarian work.’

The emergency medical team is made up of NHS volunteers and fire fighters and is the result of a partnership between Public Health England and the Department for International Development.

It is the first time the team has been deployed since it was certified by the World Health Organization in 2016.

The number of diphtheria cases at the camp is growing by around 160 a day. Médecins Sans Frontières staff on site are struggling to find beds and supplies for everyone.

Health minister Steve Brine said: ‘Today marks another proud moment in the history of the NHS as selfless clinical staff once again show their skill, commitment and passion for helping people around the world.’

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