An outbreak of chickenpox in one of the world’s largest refugee camps has been detected by a UK-funded early warning system.
While the common childhood illness is generally considered to be a low risk, the crowded conditions in the camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh create the ideal conditions for the rapid spread of the contagious disease among a population that is already vulnerable.
More than one million Rohingya people live in the camp, having fled from Myanmar to escape what the United Nations has described a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The disease surveillance system connects 168 health centres across the camp through a mobile app, allowing health workers to flag cases of contagious diseases. These illnesses are then tracked, enabling experts to identify when there could be a deadly outbreak.
“Aid isn’t just about reacting to a crisis after the fact; we are using technology and intelligence to prevent and respond to problems before they become disasters,” said Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary.
“By responding at the first stage of a disease outbreak, rather than when it is already an epidemic, we will save more lives, more efficiently,” she added.
The Department for International Development (Dfid) has invested close to £1 million in the system, which was used last December to identify and address an outbreak of diphtheria.