Crisis Severity The severity score from 1 to 5 is based on 31 indicators aggregated into 3 pillars (impact, conditions, and complexity)2.70 Very lowVery high 5
Impact This measures the impact of the crisis itself, in terms of the scope of its geographical, and human effects.2.10 Very lowVery high 5
Humanitarian Conditions This measures the conditions and status of the people affected, including info about the distribution of severity.3.00 Very lowVery high 5
Complexity This measures the complexity of the crisis, in terms of factors that affect its mitigation or resolution.2.70 Very lowVery high 5
Access Constraints This measures the level of humanitarian access constraints.3.0No constraintsExtreme constraints
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Rohingya response: Health behaviours & COVID-19
Bangladesh has been a country of refuge for Rohingyas fleeing violence in Myanmar on numerous occasions since 1978. The most recent influx of refugees occurred in September 2017, when more than 700,000 Rohingya crossed the border into Bangladesh after fleeing a military campaign in Rakhine state.?
Cox’s Bazar now hosts more than 850,000 Rohingya refugees across 34 in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas. Bangladesh is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and Rohingyas are registered as ‘Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals’ not refugees. While the Government of Bangladesh has kept the borders open, there remain important gaps in assistance: refugees lack formal legal status, face extreme restrictions on movement, and are not permitted to legally work.?
This has left the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar in a protracted crisis and dependent on humanitarian assistance. Camp conditions are marked by insecurity, congestion and lack of privacy, and inadequate sanitation facilities and water infrastructure. The majority of Rohingya households engage in high-risk coping strategies, such as selling or rationing aid or taking on new debts, in order to meet basic needs. This is particularly true for female-headed households, households without income-generating activities, and those with elderly or physically disabled members.?
Humanitarian conditions deteriorate significantly during monsoon season, which occurs from May to September. Cox’s Bazar is extremely prone to flooding and landslides due to its rugged and hilly terrain. More than 40,000 refugees live in areas at the highest risk of landslides.?
As of 14 July, 58 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the Rohingya refugee camps. 2,971 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Cox’s Bazar district overall. ?
On 14 May UNHCR confirmed one Rohingya refugee living in the Kutapalong refugee settlement has tested positive for COVID-19. One member of the local host community has also tested positive at the same facility.?
The government of Bangladesh does not legally recognise Rohingyas as refugees and currently confines them to segregated areas in Cox’s Bazar district. Curfews and temporary shutdowns of communication lines have affected the camps, where different groups, some of which armed, are vying for control with reported episodes of violence. Tensions between refugees and the Bangladeshi authorities followed the repeated announcement of repatriation plans. Refugees’ freedom of movement and access to services has always been restricted. The monsoon season caused physical constraints in the form of road blockages and infrastructural damage. NGOs continue facing difficulties in the registration process.
Read more in the latest ACAPS Humanitarian Access Overview.
Impact of COVID-19
As of 16 July, a total of 993,291 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted and 196,323 cases have been confirmed in Bangladesh. As of 14 June, 58 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the Rohingya refugee camps?
The Government of Bangladesh has suspended all but essential activities in all 34 Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar as of 24 March 2020. Under current guidance, updated as of 4 April, only critical services and assistance are permitted to remain open and staffed, including: all health and nutrition facilities, WASH activities and facilities, LPG distributions, information hubs for sessions related to COVID-19 awareness, distribution of food and reception of new arrivals and family tracing. Site management staff are to be reduced to 20% of pre-COVID-19 presence (RRRC 08/04/2020). This means all shops and markets, excluding specific kitchen markets in the camps, are closed. Non-essential programs suspended until further notice include the drawdown of site management work, most shelter/NFI activities, livelihoods activities, education and learning centres, friendly spaces and community centres, and training facilities.
On top of the constraints and challenges ongoing in the camps, Bangladesh has also announced that as of 22 April they will no longer accept Rohingya refugees or rescue boats in international waters?
The ACAPS team is monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information related to the outbreak, see our SPECIAL REPORTS.
Health: The extreme population density of the refugee camps, poor hygiene, insufficient health facilities, and inability to self-isolate means the risk of infection within the camps is high. The pre-existing prevalence of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) suggests that the environment is conducive to the spread of COVID-19, as other respiratory diseases transmit much like COVID-19 (WHO 01/20). According to Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS) there have already been 174,128 reported cases of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) since January 2020 (WHO 03/20).
Access to livelihoods and employment: The disruption to local markets and income generating activities has further decreased Rohingya refugees’ ability to meet their daily needs. Many report an inability to participant in humanitarian-led income generating activities, including Rohingya volunteers within NGOs and cash for work programs, as severely impacting their ability to meet basic needs. The host community also reported concerns over the lack of movement and inability to earn an income given the recent changes in humanitarian programming and the nation-wide COVID-19 containment measures enforced by the Government that closed markets. See COVID-19 Explained Edition 5
Protection: The reduction in both income and presence of humanitarian actors in the camps has reportedly led to a spike in criminal activity and concerns over safety. Both host community and Rohingya respondents gave examples of recent security-related incidents concerning crime and theft and expressed increasing feelings insecurity. See COVID-19 Explained Edition 5
Education: With the implementation of the nation-wide lockdown and essential service restrictions, access to education is critically compromised. This is not only having an impact on children but also on parents and families who are now spending all their time together in cramped conditions during the hottest season of the year. See COVID-19 Explained Edition 5
Access to Information: Access to information is a key concern raised by a majority of participants in the COVID-19 Explained series regardless of age, gender, ability or population group. Rohingya refugees report lacking information on treatment as well as the current status of COVID-19 cases. They further expressed that those with mobility restrictions face the greatest barriers in accessing information, including older people, especially older women and persons with disabilities.
WASH: Both host community and Rohingya women expressed challenges in obtaining adequate menstrual hygiene items as well as accessing shared latrines during the day now that men are home all day, as opposed to at work. Rohingya participants in the COVID-19 Explained series report that the reduced presence of humanitarian actors has impacted WASH services and camp cleanliness. The lack of upkeep of public hygiene facilities in the camps was identified as a source of stress for both Rohingya and host community participants as they believe that dirtiness will increase the risk of virus transmission.
ACAPS - NPM ANALYSIS HUB
ACAPS is collaborating with IOM’s Needs and Population Monitoring (NPM) project since December 2017, and have established an Analysis Hub in Cox’s Bazar. The Hub supports operational actors by producing analytical briefs, and provides stakeholders with an overview of the situation through regular updates and specialized thematic products.
ACAPS - NPM Analysis Hub is collaborating with IOM’s CwC Unit to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the Rohingya population through a new series of reports, "COVID-19 Explained", based on focus group discussions and key informant interviews with Rohingya living across Ukhia and Teknaf camps. The objective of these consultations is to ensure Rohingya’s voices are included in all stages of the COVID-19 response and provide an avenue for Rohingya refugees to express their questions and concerns. COVID-19 Explained aims to provide decision makers with an understanding of the current perceptions, understanding and information being circulated on COVID-19 among Rohingya and inform programming decisions that are being made in preparation for a potential COVID-19 outbreak.
Learn more about COVID-19 Explained and the ACAPS - NPM Analysis Hub.
If you are interested in the reports produced by the hub, please subscribe to the ACAPS Cox's Bazar mailing list.