Cyclone threatens Rohingya refugees as first Covid-19 cases are confirmed in Cox’s Bazar, warns Oxfam Ireland

Cyclone threatens Rohingya refugees as first Covid-19 cases are confirmed in Cox’s Bazar, warns Oxfam Ireland

Rohingya refugees in worlds largest refugee camp face cyclone threat as first cases of COVID-19 are confirmed

Almost one million Rohingya people in the world’s largest refugee camp are facing the added threat of a cyclone this weekend just as the first cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the camp, Oxfam Ireland warned today.

The cyclone, which looks likely to form off the coast over the weekend, could bring further suffering and destruction to the camps on top of a potentially devastating health crisis.

Dipankar Datta, Oxfam Bangladesh Country Director said: “Our worst fears have been confirmed as the virus has hit overcrowded camps where many people are suffering from pre-existing health conditions.

“With 40,000 people crammed into each square kilometer of the camp maintaining social distance is impossible. People share water and toilet facilities making it extremely challenging to maintain the strict  hygiene needed.  If a serious outbreak is to be avoided more prevention and containment measures must be rapidly put in place.”

If the cyclone hits, the contamination of water sources caused by heavy rains and flooding could lead to a spike in illnesses. And any weakening of people’s immune systems will likely leave them even more vulnerable to the virus.

Oxfam are driving rapid responses to COVID-19 -  increasing the delivery of clean water, handwashing facilities, and hygiene materials like soap. They are also working to ensure access to food, getting cash to the hands of those most in need and, with networks of Community Volunteers, they are disseminating information about hygiene awareness and COVID-19.

Datta said: “Every effort is being made to keep the people safe, but there are huge gaps. We need more funds to immediately ramp up hygiene, health, and protection facilities to save lives. All governments and international agencies must step in to make sure no one is left behind.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “While nations around the world are understandably focused on containing the spread of the pandemic among their people, it is crucial that the international community does not turn its back on vulnerable populations.

“Our priority is to support people in higher-risk environments such as refugee camps. The urgency for ramping up lifesaving protection measures in Cox’s Bazar just doubled. The looming cyclone has the potential to unleash devastating destruction just as the first cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the camps.”

Oxfam Ireland is appealing to the public to support Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar who are now facing the double threat of Covid-19 amidst monsoon season, and now a possible cyclone fast-approaching.

To find out more about Oxfam’s urgent appeal visit: Click here

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Contact

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Spokespeople available for interview upon request | Visual content available for use – images available upon request

Short video: Click here

Note for the Editor

  • There are now roughly 19,000 confirmed cases in Bangladesh– and likely many more due to limited testing capacity.
  • Cyclone Weather Alert | Indian Express
  • A COVID-19 Hygiene Kit costs just €75/£65 but is a lifeline for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and vulnerable communities all over the world. Hygiene kits provide essentials like soap, water purification tablets, and a jerrycan

What Oxfam is doing: Oxfam is providing vital aid including clean water and food to Rohingya people in Bangladesh and Myanmar. So far, it has helped more than a quarter of a million (360,000) people in Bangladesh and continues to support 105,000 Rohingya and other Muslim minorities living in camps in Myanmar with clean water and sanitation services.

In Bangladesh:

  • Oxfam has 207 staff in Cox’s Bazar – of whom 184 (90%) are Bangladeshi (as of August 2019).
  • Last week, Oxfam installed an innovative new contactless hand washing station designed with community input to reduce the risks of Covid-19 transmission. In the coming weeks teams will install more facilities.
  • Oxfam is helping people stay healthy by installing water points, toilets and showers, and distributing soap and other essentials like sanitary cloths. Oxfam has recruited more than 600 Rohingya volunteers to help reach 165,000 other refugees with information about safe hygiene.
  • Oxfam opened the biggest-ever sewage plant in a refugee camp, funded by UNHCR, which can process the waste of 100,000 people safely on site. Oxfam has designed a solar-powered water network to distribute safe chlorinated water more effectively to refugees.
  • Oxfam employed over 1,800 Bangladeshi locals on community construction projects including repairs to roads, schools and water sources. Almost 400 local people received grants to start or expand their small businesses.
  • Oxfam has installed more than 350 solar-powered street lights around the camp and provided 20,000 torches and portable solar lanterns so that refugees – especially women – feel safer leaving their shelters after dark to reach water points and toilets.

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