Sunday, May 31, 2020 | Last Update : 05:46 PM IST

68th Day Of Lockdown

Maharashtra65168280812197 Tamil Nadu2024611313157 Delhi173877846398 Gujarat1635692321007 Rajasthan83654855184 Madhya Pradesh78914444343 Uttar Pradesh77014651213 West Bengal48131775302 Andhra Pradesh3461228960 Bihar3359120915 Karnataka292299749 Telangana2499141277 Jammu and Kashmir234190828 Punjab2197194942 Odisha17239779 Haryana172194019 Kerala120957510 Assam9361044 Uttarakhand493794 Jharkhand4621914 Chhatisgarh4471021 Chandigarh2891994 Tripura2711720 Himachal Pradesh223634 Goa70420 Manipur6060 Puducherry57230 Nagaland3600 Meghalaya27121 Arunachal Pradesh310 Mizoram110 Sikkim100

Containing virus outbreak in refugee camps a daunting task, officials warn

AP
Published : Apr 3, 2020, 10:00 am IST
Updated : Apr 3, 2020, 10:00 am IST

There have been no reported cases of infection in the camps yet, but officials remain concerned

AFP Photo
 AFP Photo

Dhaka: Aid workers are bracing for a possible outbreak of the coronavirus in one of the world's largest refugee camps in Bangladesh, with officials warning that containing the disease among more than 1 million tightly packed Rohingya Muslims will be a daunting task.

With about 40,000 people per square kilometer (103,600 per square mile) living in plastic shacks side by side, which is more than 40 times the average density of Bangladesh, the refugees are dangerously exposed to the virus.

Each shack is barely 10 square meters (107 square feet) and many are overcrowded with up to 12 people.

There have been no reported cases of infection in the camps yet, but officials remain concerned. The U.N. is not doing any testing for the virus but sends any suspected cases to a government hospital.

“We are doing our best to protect them, but if the virus breaks out it will be a tough job for all of us,” Mohammad Shamsuddoza, the additional refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner of Bangladesh, told The Associated Press by phone from Cox's Bazar on the border with Myanmar, from where the Rohingya have fled a government crackdown.

He said the 34 camps are a major challenge despite preparations to provide better health care services.

“It's overcrowded, every family has multiple members,” he said. “So this is practically very difficult to keep them separated.” Rachel Wolff, senior director for the aid group World Vision in Cox's Bazar, said “social distancing is almost impossible for families.”

Bangladesh has reported six deaths and 54 cases of COVID-19 amid concerns that the virus could spread in the South Asian country through Bangladeshis who have returned from Italy and other places struggling with the disease.

Many of those returning did not respect social distancing or stay in self-quarantine.

One reason for the low number of reported cases could be insufficient testing as health care facilities initially lacked testing kits. Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million, is currently under a lockdown until April 11 to help contain the virus, and troops are out to enforce the stay-at-home rules.

Mohammad Kamal Hossain, the top government administrator in Cox's Bazar, said foreigners have been banned from frequent visits to the camps unless they are “absolutely necessary." “They have been instructed to carry on work in a limited scope,” he said.

A 100-bed isolation ward was built inside the camps and another 200-bed hospital with modern facilities is being deployed in cooperation with the World Health Organization, he said.

The U.N. refugee agency said about 1,200 additional beds were being readied just outside the camps at Ukhiya and Teknaf.

Louise Donovan, UNHCR communications officer in Cox's Bazar, said planning was also underway for 1,700 more beds in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration, UNICEF and Save the Children International.

Tags: coronavirus outbreak, cox bazaar, rohingya refugee camp, covid-19 pandemic, covid-19 bangladesh
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT