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New Zealand Red Cross nurse, Guru Dev Singh, sits at the entrance of a tent looking weary. It’s no surprise because she’s been battling the heat to help establish a Red Cross and Red Crescent emergency hospital in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
That was in October 2017. Six months later Guru is back home in Wellington but the hospital in Bangladesh remains and it’s busier than ever. So far, more than 22,650 patients have received emergency medical care in the fully-equipped, 60-bed field hospital.
The hospital is the only 24-hour surgical facility supporting a population of more than one million people, including the host community in Cox's Bazar and more than 687,000 new arrivals who have fled the recent violence in Myanmar.
“There’s very limited access to medical services for these people,” says Dr Merle Weber, a Rotorua-based New Zealand Red Cross health worker currently in Cox’s Bazar. “We do the best we can. It’s not always enough but we try.”
She’s one of the many Kiwis who have been part of the international team delivering life-saving care to people who need it most.
Since this latest crisis began, New Zealand Red Cross has sent 12 international delegates to respond to the growing emergency, nine of whom are health workers. Six more are set to be deployed over the next few months. Their help is vital, particularly in the maternity ward, which is especially busy with babies being born day and night.People continue to arrive in Cox’s Bazar, exhausted and scared with only what they can carry. The camp’s residents live in makeshift shelters on unstable hillsides and the monsoon season brings with it new fears of a crisis within a crisis. As part of its support, Red Cross is focused on shoring up sanitation and health within the camps, and distributing materials to make shelters sturdier.