Rohingya refugee camps braced for coronavirus

Rohingya refugee camps braced for coronavirus
Rohingya children in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 March 2020

Rohingya refugee camps braced for coronavirus

Rohingya refugee camps braced for coronavirus
  • Health workers in Cox’s Bazar being trained in disease detection
  • Poor water quality and patchy access to healthcare leave refugees vulnerable to illnesses

DHAKA: Health authorities in Bangladesh are gearing up for a possible coronavirus outbreak in Rohingya refugee camps, officials have told Arab News.

There are more than a million refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, which is in the southeast of the country, and most of them fled neighboring Myanmar following a brutal military crackdown in Aug. 2017.

Living conditions are cramped and dense. Poor water quality and patchy access to healthcare leave refugees vulnerable to illnesses.

“A multi-sector preparedness and response plan is being developed in coordination with the Bangladeshi government's ministry of health,” Louise Donovan, UNHCR spokeswoman, told Arab News. “UNHCR cautions against measures specifically directed at refugees and which are not scientifically sound or do not conform to recommended public health practice and guidance of WHO (World Health Organization).

Hundreds of health workers in the camp area are receiving training to improve disease outbreak detection and prevention. Isolation wards have also been set up.

“A total of 280 health workers have been trained in infection prevention and control at health facilities, with a special emphasis on prevention and control of COVID-19. The health sector is currently establishing designated isolation facilities, early detection and contact tracing mechanisms,” Catalin Bercaru, WHO Bangladesh spokesman, told Arab News.

Health authorities in Cox's Bazar had already started raising awareness among members of the Rohingya community about personal and food hygiene measures to avoid infection, he said.

Barcaru added that the WHO had provided basic personal protection equipment to the district hospital. It has also distributed non-contact thermometers to Cox’s Bazar airport as health officials had started screening all passengers.