Aid workers race to stop coronavirus spreading in world’s largest refugee camp

Aid workers in Bangladesh raced to stop the coronavirus spreading through the world’s largest refugee settlement on Friday, installing isolation treatment centres and hand washing stations, after the first cases were confirmed. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said the 850,000 Rohingya who occupy the densely populated camps in Bangladesh were among the world’s most vulnerable to the highly contagious virus, which has spread rapidly around the globe.

Aid workers have warned of a potential humanitarian disaster if there is a significant outbreak in the camps in Bangladesh, which has reported about 300 deaths from the virus. About 4,000 refugees have been asked not to leave their block to slow down the spread of the virus, said Mahbub Alam Talukder, Bangladesh’s commissioner for refugees. bout 250 isolation beds were being set up in the crowded camps, the United Nations said. Aid agencies are also installing contactless washing stations to reduce the spread of the virus.

Forecasts of a cyclone in the coming days could bring “further suffering” to the refugees, he warned. Rezwan Khan, a 22-year-old Rohingya refugee, said people in the camps were scared. “I have seen fewer people come out,” he said. More than 730,000 Rohingya arrived from Myanmar in late 2017 after fleeing a military crackdown. Myanmar is facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice in the Hague over the violence. The army denies genocide, saying it was fighting a legitimate battle against Rohingya militants who attacked first.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation 


Author: Tuula Pohjola