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Rohingya refugees face C-19 disaster in camps, warn MPs

ROHINGYA refugees are facing disaster in squalid and cramped conditions as coronavirus cases are sweeping the Bangladesh camps, British MPs warn today.

The crowded and unsanitary conditions in the camps are likely to hamper efforts to stop Covid-19 spreading, the International Development Committee (IDC) reveals in its latest report.

And with severe shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and isolation beds, and no ventilators in the region, there is “little hope that cases can be effectively treated,” it adds.

The Rohingya also have no access to online information on avoiding infection and are unable to report symptoms to medics easily due to a ban on internet access and owning SIM cards by the Bangladesh authorities.

IDC also received reports of fences being built around and between the camps, potentially further restricting access to services.

Labour MP Sarah Champion, who chairs the IDC, said the Rohingya have been “suffering for far too long” in the camps, which have “the perfect conditions for coronavirus to thrive.”

“The UK government must continue to lead the international response to support the Rohingya and apply its diplomatic muscle to preventing a humanitarian catastrophe,” she said.
 
“I admire the Bangladesh government for providing refuge, but in the short term it must be persuaded to open up internet access for life-saving advice and the ability to report symptoms, and to stop building fences limiting movement.  
 
“Long-term, more pressure must be applied to the Myanmar government to end the despicable human-rights abuses and threat of violence that prevent the Rohingya from returning home.” 

In September 2018, the Department for International Development (DfID) said it was reviewing its strategy for programming in Myanmar.

The IDC said that in response to its report, DfID should set out the results of its review or confirm how Britain’s aid programme in Myanmar has changed.

Doctors Without Borders Bangladesh representative Paul Brockmann said the group was “deeply concerned” about the prospect of widespread transmissions of Covid-19 among vulnerable communities living in dense situations like the Rohingya refugees.

“To have a realistic chance of tackling Covid-19 among Bangladesh’s most at-risk communities, all health actors and authorities should continue working together hand-in-hand, in solidarity,” he said.

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