Bangladesh confirms 1st death of Rohingya from coronavirus

Rohingya refugees gather at a market as first cases of COVID-19 coronavirus have emerged in the area. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 June 2020

Bangladesh confirms 1st death of Rohingya from coronavirus

  • The man died in an isolation center set up by the government and aid agencies
  • UN refugee agency said at least 29 Rohingya refugees have tested positive for the disease

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Authorities in Bangladesh have confirmed the first death of a Rohingya refugee from the coronavirus, as infections rise in sprawling camps where more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims have been living since fleeing from neighboring Myanmar.
The 71-year-old refugee died Saturday at Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar, and samples collected from him tested positive on Monday, said Abu Toha M.R. Bhuiyan, chief health coordinator of the office of the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner.
The man died in an isolation center set up by the government and aid agencies where he had been admitted with COVID-19 symptoms a week earlier.
Louise Donovan, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, said at least 29 Rohingya refugees have tested positive for the disease.
With about 40,000 people per square kilometer (103,600 per square mile), the 34 refugee camps have more than 40 times Bangladesh’s average population density. Each shack is barely 10 square meters (107 square feet) and many are packed with up to 12 residents.
Aid agencies and government officials say the challenge of handling a wide outbreak of the virus could be huge.
Authorities in Buddhist-majority Myanmar consider Muslim Rohingya to be migrants from Bangladesh, even though their families have lived in Myanmar for decades. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights, including education.
Most of the Rohingya in the camps fled Myanmar after August 2017, when Myanmar’s military launched clearance operations in response to attacks by a rebel group. Security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.


Over 1 million marooned in Bangladesh as floods worsen

Updated 14 July 2020

Over 1 million marooned in Bangladesh as floods worsen

  • Water levels at major rivers were rising Tuesday at around two dozen points in 20 districts
  • Bangladesh is crisscrossed by 230 rivers, including 53 shared with India

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Heavy flooding is worsening in parts of Bangladesh, with over 1 million villagers marooned or leaving their homes for higher ground along with their cattle and other belongings, officials and volunteers said Tuesday.
Water levels at major rivers were rising Tuesday at around two dozen points in 20 districts. Many new areas in northern, northeastern and central Bangladesh have been affected over last 24 hours, Arifuzzman Bhuiyan, an executive engineer with the Water Development Board, said by phone. Bangladesh has 64 districts.
“The situation is worsening," he said. “The worst thing is that the floods are getting prolonged this year, which is a bad sign.”
Bhuiyan said heavy rainfall and rushing waters from upstream India were the main reasons for the floods in the delta nation of 160 million people, which receives monsoon rains between June and October every year, often leading to flooding.
The floods started late last month, and after briefly easing continued to worsen, affecting many new areas, destroying crops and driving people from their homes in several impoverished regions. Bangladesh is crisscrossed by 230 rivers, including 53 shared with India.
In the northern district of Kurigram, one of the worst-hit areas, thousands of villagers have moved from their homes to higher ground since the weekend, bringing along their cattle and other belongings, said Mizanur Rahman Soikat, project coordinator with the Bidyanondo Foundation, a local charity. The foundation has been distributing both cooked and dry food to the flood-affected villagers, many of whom have lost their crops and livelihood.
Soikat said that over the last few weeks, the charity has distributed food to some 135,000 people in Kurigram, while the government’s relief office was also providing food, cash and cattle food.
“Over last two days, the situation has deteriorated and many villages went underwater in the district," he said by phone. “I have seen thousands taking shelter.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement Monday that more than a million Bangladeshis have been marooned by the floods, with the worst of it happening since the weekend.
“Thousands of people are expected to leave their homes throughout the beginning of this week to seek shelter in higher ground as the Water Development Board warned that the onrush of water from upstream would further intensify,” the statement said.
A.T.M. Akhteruzzman, a relief and rehabilitation officer in the northern district of Rangpur, said about 50,000 people who live along the Teesta River basin have been marooned.
“Waters are coming from India, while heavy rainfalls in the region are causing havoc,” he said. “We are trying to do our best to stand by the people, as we have already provided more than 300 tons of rice, cattle food, baby food and a good amount of cash. Our relief operations will continue."