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George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, inoculates a Rohingya refugee baby with the polio vaccine on 21 April 2022, launching the routine immunization programme in Bhasan Char

This week, Rohingya refugee children on Bhasan Char in Bangladesh are receiving vaccinations through a routine childhood immunization programme.

UNICEF provides technical and financial assistance to the Government of Bangladesh in support of childhood immunizations on Bhasan Char. While Rohingya refugee children have received some vaccinations since arriving on the island through two ad hoc campaigns, this week marks the inauguration of the first regular childhood immunization programme on Bhasan Char.

“We have no time to waste. Lost ground means lost lives. Rohingya refugee children on Bhasan Char need their childhood immunizations or the consequences can be deadly,” said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia

The UNICEF Regional Director joined Government health workers delivering child vaccinations during his visit to Bhasan Char on 20-21 April.

“The routine childhood vaccination programme on Bhasan Char follows the Bangladesh Government’s national Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI). This includes vaccinations against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis-B, Hib, polio, pneumonia, tuberculosis, measles and rubella,” said Dr Md. Shamsul Haque, Line Director for Maternal Neonatal Child and Adolescent Health, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 

Rohingya refugee families began to be relocated from the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar to the island of Bhasan Char just over a year ago. Estimations are that there are now well over 10,000 children on the island. UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO and other partners are working together to support the Government to deliver health and other services on Bhasan Char.

“No matter how challenging or remote the setting, we must do everything possible to reach the most at-risk and marginalized boys and girls, regardless of who they are or where they are,” said the UNICEF Regional Director.

Vaccines remain one of the greatest advances in public health, giving children a fair chance to survive, thrive, walk, play and learn. The immunization programme comes just ahead of the worldwide commemoration of World Immunization Week – celebrated every year in the last week of April, which will aim to draw the world’s attention to the millions of children still missing out on life-saving vaccines.