Protection of Rohingya Refugees from COVID-19 Pandemic.

Ανοικτή επιστολή προς τον Απεσταλμένο Επίτροπο του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες στην Μπανγκλαντές. Η επιστολή, έχει κοινοποιηθεί και στο Refugee Relief and Repatriation Committee (RRRC) της Μπανγκλαντές. Εκφράζουμε τις ανησυχίες μας για την υγειονομική κατάσταση που επικρατεί στους προσφυγικούς καταυλισμούς.

Dear Mr. Steven Corliss, Honorable Representative of UNHCR in Bangladesh,

Subject:Protection of Rohingya Refugees from COVID-19 Pandemic.

 We are the Volunteer Doctors Cyprus, a Cypriot NGO dedicated to the provision of medical and other humanitarian assistance to people in need around the world. In the summer of 2018 we organized a 10-day mission* to Bangladesh for the provision of medical treatment to the Rohingya refugee population residing at the refugee camps of Teknaf. Since then, we have been financially supporting the education of refugee children within the refugee camps.

During these unprecedented times of a world-wide pandemic, we are deeply worried about the health and safety of the Rohingya refugee population in Bangladesh. Given the living conditions, there is little doubt that a spread of the COVID-19 in the refugee camps will lead to a horrible tragedy for the already tormented refugees.

Credible sources of the VDC within the refugee camps inform us, that currently the Bangladeshi authorities have taken no further measures, other than restriction of movement and directions for social distancing. Considering the highly crowded situation in the camps, the above are already really hard to achieve. There is currently no provision of medical treatment to sick refugees by the RHU and no NGO is risking entering the camp to provide assistance. Moreover, the already compromised hygiene conditions are deteriorating us the available public toilets and the sewage system are not being cleaned or maintained.  Finally, none has provided any means of protection or sanitization to the refugees.

The reported cases of infection in Bangladesh are 51 with two deaths, as of today. We are being informed that, there is also spread of the virus in Myanmar and the war-ridden area of Arakan, from where Rohingya refugees are still fleeting.

In view of the above, we kindly but urgently call for the institution of reasonable measures that will prevent the spread of the virus amongst the Rohingya population, including primarily:

  • The provision of face masks.
  • The provision of means of sanitation, such as hand-sanitizers/ disinfectants.
  • The provision of medical examination and treatment to patients with symptoms.
  • The designation of an area where possible infected persons can be isolated and cared for.
  • The frequent cleaning and maintenance of the camps’ toilets and sewage system.

Honorable Representative of UNHCR in Bangladesh, we deeply thank you for your valuable contributions to the protection of the Rohingya refugees on behalf of the international community. We are aware of the severe difficulties that all populations face during these times of crisis, yet the Rohingya are one of the most vulnerable around the globe. We firmly believe that we can count on you, the UNHCR, the UN and the government of Bangladesh to take swift effective action, so that a disaster can be avoided.

We are at your disposal for anything that may be in our power to help.

* Letter written by Demetris Macriyiannis who participated in the 10-day mission* for the provision of medical and humanitarian aid to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh during 2018.


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