According to a new study by the aid organization Doctors Without Borders, almost 40 percent of Rohingya refugees in the overcrowded camps in Bangladesh suffer from scabies. The outbreak has been going on for over a year, the organization said.

“It is unbelievable that a scabies outbreak could last so long and cause people suffering and deprive them of their dignity,” MSF operations director Karten Noko said.

An employee responsible for health at the Bangladesh authority that takes care of Rohingya told the dpa: “We are trying to control the outbreak with our limited resources by treating the camp residents and educating them about the importance of hygiene.”

Overcrowded camps

The disease is spreading very quickly, especially given the lack of hygiene among camp residents who live in very close quarters, he said. Often five or six people lived in a small room, made of bamboo, for example, and shared the same beds and clothes.

Scabies is a contagious, non-fatal skin disease caused by mites. The mites live in the skin and lay eggs there. Due to excretions of the mites, there are skin reactions such as severe itching and a larger rash can also occur.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh for years. They fled there in 2017 from the predominantly Buddhist neighboring country of Myanmar, when the local military launched an offensive against the Muslim minority. The UN describes the persecution of the Rohingya as genocide. The Rohingya had lost their citizenship in Myanmar in 1983 by the then military junta. Bangladesh hopes they will return to Myanmar soon. So far, several repatriation attempts have failed due to the refugees’ security concerns.