04/06/2020, 16.32
BANGLADESH
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If coronavirus reaches Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, it will be a disaster

by Sumon Corraya

Refugees live crammed, without adequate health care. Rohingya Christians face even more dangers. Caritas is providing funds, information leaflets, masks and disinfectant. Humanitarian organisations are calling for greater press freedom and a stop to the construction of a barbed wire fence.

Cox’s Bazar (AsiaNews) – One million mostly Muslim Rohingya refugees live in the tent camps all around Cox’s Bazar after fleeing Myanmar because of persecution by the country’s military.

Nurul Amin, married father of seven, lives in one of those camps. “We live in a tiny house,” he said. “We don’t have good sanitary and medical facilities. If this virus reaches the camps, it will be a big disaster.”

So far, the Bangladeshi government has quarantined 34 Rohingya refugee settlements. About 70 people have been infected in the country with eight deaths.

To contain the outbreak, the authorities have reduced assistance to refugees to a minimum; however, foreign humanitarian workers continue to arrive to help in the camps.

Some Christian Rohingya are among the refugees in a Cox’s Bazar settlement. “We live in fear,” said one of them, speaking to AsiaNews. “If any of us get sick, we will not get any treatment and will die.”

For Christian Rohingya, the situation is even worse. On 27 January, 25 families (87 people) were attacked by Rohingya extremists.

Together with the government and some NGOs, Caritas is helping refugees protect themselves from the pandemic.

"We have handed out 200,000 information leaflets and thousands of posters in their language, as well as protective masks, disinfectant and hand soap,” said Ranjon Francis Rozario, director of Caritas in Bangladesh.

Local authorities also received funds donated to deal with the crisis, and medicines were delivered to health facilities run by the Catholic Church.

According to some Bangladeshi media, around 50 humanitarian and advocacy groups wrote a letter to the government calling for restrictions to be lifted on media access to refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar.

The letter also asks Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to halt construction to barbed wire fences around camps

For these groups, restrictions on press freedom and fencing off camps weaken efforts to improve conditions for refugees.

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