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    Bangladesh: Lack of hepatitis C care amid alarming prevalence rates in Rohingya refugee camps

    A patient is receiving medicines for Hep C from Doctors Without Borders’ Jamtoli facility at the Rohingya refugee camp in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh, May 2024. © Abir Abdullah/MSF

    A patient is receiving medicines for Hep C from Doctors Without Borders’ Jamtoli facility at the Rohingya refugee camp in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh, May 2024. © Abir Abdullah/MSF

    Faced with an influx of hepatitis C patients in the Cox’s Bazar camps over the last few years, Epicentre, Doctors Without Borders' epidemiology and research centre, carried out a survey of 680 households in seven camps between May and June 2023. The results show that almost a third of the adults in the camps have been exposed to hepatitis C infection at some point in their lives and that 20 per cent have an active hepatitis C infection.

    “As one of the most persecuted ethnic minorities in the world, the Rohingya population is paying the price for decades of lack of access to healthcare and to safe medical practices in their country of origin. The use of healthcare equipment that has not been disinfected, such as syringes, which are widely used in alternative healthcare practices within the refugee community, could explain the potential ongoing transmission and the high prevalence of hepatitis C among the population living in the overcrowded camps", explains Sophie Baylac, Doctors Without Borders head of mission in Bangladesh. 

    Extrapolating the results of this study to all the camps would suggest that about one in five adults is currently living with a hepatitis C infection – totalling an estimated 86,000 individuals – and requiring treatment to be cured.