Around a million Rohingya in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, along with aid workers, are likely to be among the worst sufferers if coronavirus spreads in the region, feared experts.
Lack of medical facilities, extremely unhygienic living conditions, and population density of the camps can cause havoc in case of a virus outbreak, they said.
Catalin Bercaru, spokesperson for the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Bangladesh, said refugees across the globe, including in Bangladesh, live in overcrowded camps or settlements that pose a greater risk of infection from communicable diseases like Covid-19.
Tariq Adnan, communication officer of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Bangladesh, said the Rohingyas already live in unsanitary conditions and their access to healthcare is severely compromised. Therefore, it is more difficult to implement preventive measures there.
Noting that there was no reported case of Covid-19 infection in the camps, the international organisations – the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), WHO, and MSF — emphasised on equipping local hospitals with adequate resources and expanding test facilities to tackle the potential outbreak.
Mostafa Mohammad Sazzad Hossain, assistant communication officer of UNHCR, said any coronavirus suspect at the Rohingya camps would be kept in temporary isolated areas until referred to pre-identified isolation units.
At present, only the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) in Dhaka has the capacity to identify Covid-19 infection. No other healthcare facility in the country is equipped to diagnose Covid-19.