First cases of Covid19 in Rohingya refugee camp
An impending humanitarian disaster (Press Release)
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe in a huge camp for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, after the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed a first case of Covid-19 there. "This is a nightmare for all aid organizations, as there are about 900,000 people living in the camp in very close conditions. The danger of infection is enormous. The refugees are threatened with a total disaster, as it is impossible to keep a sufficient distance to other people in the camp," explained Ulrich Delius, the STP's director, in Göttingen on Thursday. According to the human rights organization, the Bangladeshi authorities must now finally restore internet communications and the cellular network in the camp to ensure that the refugees can be informed about the dangers of the pandemic and about the necessary precautionary measures. Further, there will have to be more humanitarian aid measures to help the camp inmates. The STP fears that the imminent spread of Covid-19 in the mega camp in the Cox's Bazaar district will lead to increased stigmatization and exclusion of refugees in Bangladesh.
The camp has a population density of up to 70,000 people per square kilometer – even higher than New York City (around 38,000 people per square kilometer) which is particularly affected by the pandemic as well. "How are the people in the camps supposed to keep an appropriate distance to each other when there dozens of them living crammed together in tents and when thousands have to share a toilet," Delius warned. Aid and human rights organizations have been criticizing the intolerable conditions for quite a while already, but Bangladesh's authorities are refusing to improve the sanitation so as not to encourage even more Rohingya to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh. "The Bangladeshi authorities share responsibility for the impending humanitarian catastrophe," Delius emphasized.
Around 730,000 Muslim Rohingya have already fled from genocidal attacks in Myanmar to the neighboring country since autumn 2017, and most of them are now living in a camp complex in the southeast of Bangladesh. A while ago, around 200,000 members of the persecuted minority had already fled from human rights violations and had found refuge in this region.