This was first published on The Lancet on 19 August, 2023. Written by Jacqui Thornton.
Ajmot Ullah has taken his 4-year-old son to the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical facility in the Cox's Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh, where he lives with his family. He was ushered to a special area set up in two of MSF's eight medical facilities supporting the overcrowded, cramped living conditions. The young boy had started having rashes on his hands and then on his whole body. “We spent money on doctors and pharmacies and eventually he got better, but he was reinfected with scabies very quickly”, Ullah told an MSF clinician. “He doesn't sleep much, his whole body itches, especially at night, and he cries a lot from the pain. My other two sons also have scabies, and my wife and I have symptoms too. It has become a nightmare for my family.”
Thousands are affected by the infectious skin condition. In March, 2022, MSF started to see unusually high numbers of patients with scabies, and numbers have escalated since. Between January and May of this year, MSF teams in the camps treated almost 70 000 patients for scabies—nearly double that of the same period in 2022. WHO is understood to have undertaken a survey in May, and found an average prevalence of 40%, with this rate at around 70% in some camps within the huge refugee complex.