08/06/2022, 12.43
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Health alert in Kayah State refugee camps after chickenpox outbreak

So far 20 children have contracted the disease, but none are in serious conditions and the symptoms, fever and vomiting, are mild. Health workers blame poor hygiene and the lack of clean drinking water. The state is the scene of clashes between the military and rebel groups.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Refugee camps in Kayah State (Myanmar) face a serious health crisis because of poor hygienic conditions, which favour the development and spread of disease, a situation compounded by a chronic lack of drinking water and medicines.

The camps, which hold internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled fighting between the military and rebel groups, are a source of concern.

The latest development, a few days ago, was an outbreak of chickenpox that spread quickly among children. Polluted water and poor personal hygiene among refugees are its main cause, this according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Aid workers report that some 20 children have contracted the disease, but more are expected given the close and prolonged contact between residents.

Karenni Human Rights Group (KNHRG) spokesman Ko Ba Nyar said that children have been sick, vomiting, and feverish since late last month.

“It happened in the west side [of Demoso Township],” he explained. “It is the rainy season and drinking water is difficult to access, especially clean water. The children might possibly have been infected because they are living together.”

Luckily, infections seem to have caused only mild symptoms and none of the affected children appears to be in serious condition so far, the activist said. For now, the camps are being closely monitored to prevent the disease from spreading; however, parents are not aware of the risks.

“Right now, we are treating the infected children with medicine in the camp,” Nyar said. The rash appeared on the faces, abdomens and backs of the infected children, this according to people who are assisting with the medical treatment.

The main refugee camp in the town of Demoso is home to over 1,400 IDPs from 11 different villages.

The sick struggle to reach government hospitals due to the ongoing fighting between the military and armed groups, often opposed to the central government and the ruling military junta.

This is where the first armed group mobilised against the military after it overthrew in February 2021 the democratically elected government of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and arrested its members.

Since then, more than half of Kayah State's population, about 200,000 people, have fled due to the fighting and military repression.

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