750,000 Rohingya Refugees In Peril in Cox Bazar Camps as Humanitarian Aid Workers Are Ordered to Stop Delivering Aid Due to Social Distancing Measures

Largest refugee camp in the world at Cox Bazaar

The SARS-COV-2 virus pandemic continues to spread misery around the world. Refugee populations live in close quarters.  Social distancing is almost impossible.  Yet refugees, like the 750,000 Rohingya hanging on to survival at Cox Bazaar, are now being blamed for the spread of the coronavirus.  Humanitarian aid workers have been ordered to leave the camps and cease the delivery of non-essential services and supplies due to social distancing measures.  The Rohingya do not understand why there is a cessation of aid delivery. It feels like abandonment by the aid community they said.

If NGOs stop providing assistance, we will die soon – no need for the Coronavirus to come. In this situation. We need more NGOs to help us but most are leaving.”

Security and Suspension of non-Essential Services

There are also reports of rapidly deteriorating security within the camps between Rohingya and host communities. A tube well was destroyed because it was near the edge of the camp.  The host community did not want Rohingya to come close and repair it.  Others have urged Rohingya to “close themselves within the camp” because they will spread diseases. Many aid workers see the Rohingya as posing a risk to themselves and others.

On 24 March 2020, the government of Bangladesh suspended non-essential services in all 34 Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. All shops and markets in the camps are closed and site management staff have been reduced by 50%. Non-essential programs suspended until further notice include all education, community centers, and training facilities. The distribution of shelter kits and material, as well as registration processes, are also suspended for at least 15 days. Essential services that will remain open and staffed include information and awareness related to COVID-19, health and nutrition facilities, distribution of food, as well as WASH activities (RRRC, 24/03/2020).

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SOURCE: Assist News Service, Jeff Thompson