The humanitarian community – NGOs and UN agencies - are working closely with the government of Bangladesh on the preparedness and response in Rohingya camps with major current gaps - the extremely limited testing, and intensive care capacity in the Cox's Bazar district- over the coronavirus outbreak.
No cases have been confirmed to date in Cox’s Bazar district, said the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) in its latest updates on the COVID-19 situation.
The government of Bangladesh has completed a National Preparedness and Response Plan for Bangladesh, which includes the Rohingya.
The humanitarian community continues to advocate that refugees are fully included in the implementation of the national and all District level plans, said the report.
Preparedness and Response
The District Administration has established isolation facilities with 50 beds in Ramu and 50 beds in Chakaria and has initiated temperature screening at the Cox’s Bazar Airport.
In Ukhiya and Teknaf, an initial 47 isolation beds are functional and stand ready in 9 health facilities run by humanitarian partners in and around the refugee camps, with potential to set up existing facilities to create more isolation capacity.
More isolation capacity is also planned by the District Administration for Pekua. Control Rooms have been established at the Civil Surgeon and DC’s Offices.
A technical committee and a medical response team have been established under the lead of the Civil Surgeon.
The government of Bangladesh has closed schools across the country from 17 March until 31 March; in line with this, the RRRC has closed educational facilities in the refugee camps.
In support of government plans, the humanitarian community – NGOs and UN - have developed an inter-sector preparedness and response plan for refugees and host communities.
The core principles of the plan are a) nondiscrimination and respect for human dignity, b) engagement of communities in the response and c) ensuring continuing needs of the Rohingya and host community populations are met.
The current priority is prevention through messaging and awareness raising among all communities, and intensified hygiene promotion.
Trainings on COVID-19 surveillance, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), and Clinical Management have been delivered to more than 250 health staff in the camp health facilities.
This has been completed in all clinics and facilities serving the Rohingya camps
Hygiene promotion has been stepped up in the camps, with all partners ensuring that water and soap is readily available to all.
Additional measures, including increasing the number of hand washing facilities in distribution centres, health points, nutrition centres, community centres and other places where services are being delivered, are underway.
Gaps and challenges
The major current gaps are the extremely limited testing, and intensive care capacity in the District, according to ISCG updates.
The concern about limited testing capacity is the possible delays in securing results which may impact the effectiveness of the response, it said.
The absence of intensive care capacity is a major concern, as this will inhibit the ability to provide needed care quickly for serious or complicated cases, said ISCG.
Even if equipment was available, securing skilled medical staff to manage the situation will be a major challenge.
Communication is key to the timely and effective management of this situation: mobile data communications restrictions in the Rohingya refugee camps should now be lifted.
3G and 4G mobile data restrictions in the camps have been in place since September 2019, and present a daily challenge to refugees, humanitarian and Government service providers, and host communities alike.
Life-saving health interventions require rapid and effective communication.
Ease of humanitarian access must be ensured throughout the response to COVID-19, including access of humanitarian staff into the camps, and refugees’ access to services.
Positive collaboration on timely project permissions and visa issuance, especially for health, WASH and CwC partners will ensure ability to respond adequately and timely, as well as the continuation of essential services and assistance.