Rushanara Ali MP calls for urgent action from the international community to prevent the coronavirus outbreak killing thousands in the world's biggest refugee camp.
On Thursday 14 May 2020 the UN confirmed the first covid-19 case in the world’s largest refugee settlement, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, which hosts about one million Rohingya refugees.
Aid groups have warned of a looming humanitarian disaster. With overcrowded conditions, limited healthcare facilities and poor sanitation, Cox’s Bazar was a ticking time bomb.
Hundreds of thousands of people live in an area of only 5 square miles, with large families crowded into tightly packed make-shift shelters. There is limited access to basic sanitation materials such as soap and clean water, and with people forced to queue for drinking water and food, social distancing is near impossible.
The majority of refugees have not received standard immunisations, and many suffer from underlying health conditions. The aid group Médicins Sans Frontières said that around a third of patients it had treated in the camp had respiratory tract symptoms, meaning they are at a much higher risk if they contract covid-19. There are limited aid provisions, and healthcare facilities in the camp, with no intensive beds at this moment.
On top of this, vital communication has been severely restricted by the internet ban which was been imposed since last September. This is severely hampering access to crucial public health information.
Rushanara Ali MP said:
“We are looking at a disaster waiting to happen in refugee camps around the world. The international community must take urgent action to support some of the world's poorest and more vulnerable communities.
It is very unfortunate that covid-19 has now been confirmed in Cox's Bazar, the impact of this will be catastrophic if swift action is not taken. Bangladesh has shown immense generosity in hosting the Rohingya refugees, despite only having a fraction of the funds required to support an additional one million people. The international community must do more to support them.
This is not just a matter of humanitarianism, it is also a matter of self-interest. Covid-19 does not respect borders. To tackle this global threat, we need a global response to the coronavirus pandemic."