Rohingya refugees threatened by pandemic, Caritas warns

Rohingya refugees are evacuated from a boat by locals near the coast of Seunuddon beach in Aceh, Indonesia, June 25, 2020. (CNS photo/Antara Foto, Rahmad via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Flimsy shelters and inadequate space in Bangladeshi refugee camps amid the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded the sufferings of the already beleaguered Rohingya community, a representative of Caritas said.

"One of the key measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic is social distancing. But if you live in a refugee camp, you don't have the luxury of space to do this," Inmanuel Chayan Biswas, communications officer for Caritas Bangladesh's Rohingya Response Program, said in a June 26 statement.

Advertisement

The Caritas program is based in Cox's Bazar, the southern Bangladeshi city hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled Myanmar to escape a Myanmar military crackdown in Rakhine that began in August 2017.

According to Biswas, overcrowded shelters in the Bangladeshi refugee camp mean proper distancing and overall hygienic measures cannot be maintained "to provide the effective prevention against the spread of the coronavirus."

[Explore all of America’s in-depth coverage of the coronavirus pandemic]

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

"Rohingya people living in Bangladeshi refugee camps are victims four times over," Biswas said. "They are victims of the violent and traumatic uprooting from their homeland in Myanmar; victims of the health emergencies such as dysentery and pox; victims of the repeated climate emergency they face when cyclones batter Bangladesh. And now they are also victims of the global pandemic, which is bearing down on Bangladesh."

According to Caritas Bangladesh, the first coronavirus case in the Rohingya community was registered May 14. As of late June, there were 45 confirmed cases and four deaths.

However, Biswas said that due to "lack of expertise in the testing centers," the accuracy of those numbers is unclear. The spread of COVID-19 has also forced the Bangladeshi government to limit the refugees' access to primary health care facilities.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

"Initially, Rohingya who were critically ill with COVID-19 were referred to Ukhiya General Hospital or Cox's Bazar Medical College," he said. "Now it is not possible because these hospitals are facing challenges to provide treatment facilities to the local people."

Caritas Bangladesh provided soap and hygiene kits and have installed hand-washing stations in public places and near toilets at the refugee camp.

"They know that they need to wash their hands frequently, but a big challenge is the poor water supply and sanitation facilities at the camp," he said.

Despite the efforts of Caritas Bangladesh, Biswas urged world leaders to act to protect the lives and dignity of Rohingya refugees.

"The international community must pay attention to the Rohingya community's plight," he said. "As yet another emergency hits these vulnerable people, we must work on all levels to ensure there is an end in sight to their suffering."

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Prelates lead a protest in Abuja, Nigeria, over unending killings of Nigerians March 1, 2020. Nigerian bishops called on the international community to help the West African country in its fight against ethnic insecurity and terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. (CNS photo/Afolabi Sotunde, Reuters)
Increasingly brutal attacks on Christian villages have been explained as the result of conflict over diminishing resources.
Kevin ClarkeJuly 02, 2020
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo has appealed to Christians and all people of faith “to pray for Hong Kong” following the imposition by China of a new national security law.
Gerard O’ConnellJuly 02, 2020
A cartoon series from a decade ago proves to have profound lessons for today.
(CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters; CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)
Broken down between white and Hispanic Catholics, the numbers show a stark divide.