The sewage-soaked alleys and cramped canvas and bamboo shacks that house one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are a horrifying scene for experts watching the coronavirus pandemic creep closer.
The wretched conditions in the camps, where most of the stateless Muslims arrived in 2017 to escape a Myanmar military clampdown across the nearby border, are fertile ground for any disease.
The public in other countries are being told to keep two metres apart. That is the width of most paths in Kutupalong, the world’s biggest refugee camp with 600,000 Rohingya, that are clogged each day with people out on the daily hunt for food and fuel.
Masks that have become a daily essential in much of the world are rarely seen. Sanitiser is unheard of.
Each shack is barely 10sq m and they are overcrowded with up to 12 people.
“You can hear your next-door neighbour breathing,” said one aid worker.
Social distancing is “virtually impossible” in the camps, Bangladesh head of Doctors Without Borders Dr Paul Brockman said.
“The scale of the challenge is immense. Vulnerable populations such as the Rohingya will likely be disproportionately affected by Covid-19,” the illness caused by new coronavirus, he told AFP.
Bangladesh has reported only a handful of coronavirus deaths and less than 50 cases but the public and experts fear there are many more.
The Rohingya barely know about the disease as the government cut off most Internet since late last year under measures to clamp down on the refugees.