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  1. ITV Report

British medical staff join aid efforts for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

An estimated 620,000 Rohingya men, women and children have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh Credit: PA

British medical staff are set to join emergency efforts for Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar.

More than 40 doctors, nurses and firefighters from the UK's emergency medical team are heading to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh for six weeks, where many Rohingya are living in camps.

The group will be helping tackle a diphtheria outbreak, Paddy McMaster, a consultant paediatrician who is part of the team, told ITV News.

"Our role is going to be delivering the anti-toxin to children particularly who are affected by this [diphtheria outbreak], who haven't been immunised before," he said.

The team's deployment follows a request from the World Health Organisation and Bangladesh's government to tackle the problem

Diphtheria is highly contagious and causes breathing difficulties that can prove fatal - there have been at least 1,470 suspected cases and more than 20 reported deaths in the camps.

"What makes it particularly bad is the density of the population [in the camps]," Dr McMaster told ITV News.

"The potential for it spreading through such a tightly packed refugee population is potentially horrendous."

The UK's emergency medical team is being deployed to Bangladesh Credit: ITV News

Health Minister Steve Brine called the team's deployment a "proud moment" for the NHS

"The UK has a proud tradition of supporting nations in need," he 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."

Many Rohingya are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh Credit: PA

An estimated 620,000 Rohingya men, women and children have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh following persecution from the Burmese military in their native state of Rakhine, which began in August.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: "This will be an absolutely critical deployment, in a race against time for men, women and children at risk of dying from one of the world's cruellest infections.

"Our brave British medical heroes are the world leaders in saving lives, acting rapidly in crisis to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

"I have heard first-hand the harrowing stories of Rohingya families who have escaped persistent persecution, violence and tragedy.

"In the face of this new horror it is absolutely right that we step up to end their relentless suffering and stop them falling prey to a rampaging, preventable disease that could kill thousands."