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[Bangladesh]4th year mark of the Rohingya Crisis:COVID-19 vaccination in Rohingya refugee camps

4 years have passed from August 25th 2017- the day that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fled from violence in Myanmar to seek refuge in Bangladesh. Currently there are around 890,000 Rohingya refugees displaced in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh, which is known as one of the largest refugee camps.


Rohingya refugee camp

Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) has been supporting the Rohingya crisis from October 2017 with their local partner Dhaka Community Hospital Trust (DCHT). We have been providing medical services to the refugees at mobile clinics and primary health care center, as well as providing health awareness by reaching out to the community.
Although 4 years have already passed since the influx, the circumstances surrounding the refugees are yet challenging. Voluntary repatriation to Myanmar has become more difficult due to the military coup which happened in February, and the displacement has become a protracted crisis. In March, a massive fire broke out in the refugee camps which led to hundreds injured including 11 deaths and more than 45,000 have lost their houses. PWJ and DCHT have provided basic health services through mobile medical teams and distributed emergency relief items in the fire affected camps.

Interviewing beneficiaries at the fire affected camps

Heavy rainfalls have been observed in the end of July causing flooding and landslides in the camp.

A tree branch blown by the heavy rain and wind is blocking the entrance of our health center in Camp 14

The refugee camps have also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many activities have been restricted as measures to prevent transmission in the camps. Refugees have not been able to receive the support they had been given before the COVID-19 pandemic. Learning centers for children have been closed since the beginning of the pandemic, and activities at Women Friendly Spaces, Child Friendly Spaces are restricted.

Children are playing in front of the closed learning centers

Health related activities were allowed to continue since it is considered as essential services, however extra cautions needs to be in place to avoid transmission. Group awareness activities were changed in to a smaller scale or either carried out through home visits to avoid gathering.

Health awareness by home visits

The high population density and unhygienic living conditions in the camps put refugees into a higher risk of infection, which has been a large concern not only for the refugees themselves but for the surrounding Bangladeshi community as well as the humanitarian actors. Amid this difficult situation, we received good news that the COVID-19 vaccination has started from the 10th of August at the refugee camps. Although refugees that are eligible to receive the vaccination is limited to those over 55 years and above, it is a big step forward for the refugees to contain the transmission in the camps. The heath center that PWJ has been supporting was also selected as one of the COVID-19 vaccine centers for Camp 14. Prior to the vaccination campaign, the Community Health Workers (CHWs) have been disseminating awareness for COVID-19 vaccination and health care staff have received training as preparatory process. Vaccination cards had been distributed to all the refugees who are eligible for the vaccine. Thanks to the preparation, 604 refugees were able to receive their first COVID-19 vaccination at our health center during the period of 10th – 18th of August.

COVID-19 vaccination campaign

In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, lots of rumors and incorrect information were spreading in side the camp. We were expecting that a similar situation may happen in the initial stage of the COVID-19 vaccination roll out and that their maybe negative reactions or unwillingness to receive the vaccination. However, thanks to the awareness by CHWs and various organizations, the vaccination is positively received by the Rohingya community.
Although it is still difficult to foresee the Ronighya crisis amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and political unrest happening in Myanmar, PWJ will continue to provide services for the health and safety for the Rohingya refugees.
We are grateful for the generous support given to our activities.

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