Inside the Red Cross field hospital giving Rohingya refugee children vital care

A refugee child inside the Red Cross field hospital on the edge of the Kutupalong Rohingya Refugee Camp.
  • Video report by ITV News correspondent Debi Edward

We were given rare access to film inside the Red Cross field hospital on the edge of the Kutupalong Rohingya Refugee Camp.

It’s the only hospital in the area which is open to emergency cases 24 hours day.

It is staffed by specialist international doctors and nurses who volunteer alongside a team from the local Bangaldesh Red Crescent.

On the day we visited, we saw them treating mostly children.

There were several who arrived with severe skin infections and abscesses.

They are very common among the child refugees, due to the poor sanitation and the heat and humidity in the camp.

Late in the afternoon, a 38-day-old baby arrived with a huge abscess on the back of her head.

She appeared listless and barely conscious. She desperately needed surgery on the abscess but she was too weak and malnourished to face that trauma and so was kept in overnight to be given fluids and have her wound washed out.

The nurses told me that a majority of the patients they see are victims of a road traffic accident.

The roads in and around the camps are so congested and dangerous.

We saw one boy who I initially thought had suffered severe burns but in fact he had been run over by a tuk-tuk and had terrible road rash.

The day before we arrived, a boy of the same age had died from similar injuries.

There was a steady stream of people coming through the doors of the hospital all day, one woman collapsing as she arrived and many came limping and exhausted from the long walk they’d had to get there from inside the camps.

The facility was initially set up as an Emergency Response Unit.

That is what the Red Cross sends in response to humanitarian crises and natural disasters.

In most cases, the ERU would start to pull out after four months but the facility we visited has already been there for nine months, and is about to start replacing some of the tents with portacabins, something more robust as the monsoon and cyclone season approaches and an indication also that they think the critical need here will continue.

There is a lot of crossover of cases between the Red Cross facility and the neighbouring Medicin San Frontier Unit, which has been based in the camp since 2009.

They have just started expanding their maternity services and their neonatal unit is always running at capacity.

However, the medical team leader of the facility told me they are still having real problems encouraging the Rohingya to seek medical treatment.

She told us that often patients are arriving in too severe and too advanced a state.

It means there have been some unnecessary deaths from some very treatable illnesses.

The Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are the largest in the world and there are over a million Rohingya registered by the local government.

This is a protracted humanitarian crisis for which there is still no permanent or enduring solution.