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WHO: 336 Rohingyas infected with Covid-19 in refugee camps till October

  • Published at 03:00 pm November 18th, 2020
File photo of Rohingyas at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

As of October 31, some 71 host community members and nine Rohingyas have died from the deadly virus, said the report, adding, 'Testing rates for refugees averaged over 100 tests a day in October'

As many as 5,150 people in Cox’s Bazar, including Rohingyas, have tested positive for Covid-19 since the first case was detected in the district in March and till October 31.

Of those infected, 336 were Rohingyas, sheltered in the 34 refugee camps there, said a report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday.

As of October 31, some 71 host community members and nine Rohingyas have died from the deadly virus, said the report, adding, “Testing rates for refugees averaged over 100 tests a day in October.”

The Covid-19 treatment services put in place by the authorities and humanitarian agencies in Cox’s Bazar continue to have sufficient capacity to support patients with required medical assistance and in the UNHCR-supported facilities, nearly 470 people -- both Rohingyas and locals -- have so far received treatment in two Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Isolation and Treatment Centres (SARI ITCs) in Ukhiya and Kutupalong and also in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) that UNHCR established at the Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital.

‘Covid-19 cases in camps decreased’

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar in October decreased, said the UNHCR report, adding that  throughout the month, some 55 new people tested positive for the virus. 

“Detection and tracing continue to be a high priority, and UNHCR and other agencies are working with refugee Community Health Volunteers (CHV) from the camps to help identify further cases. 

“The CHV volunteers provide targeted counselling on testing to refugees identified with Covid-like symptoms and support referrals. On average, during the reporting period, over 100 tests were conducted daily in the camps,” read the report.

“Community-based surveillance mechanisms continue to be one of the most effective ways to identify cases. Over 21,700 refugees have been referred to health services by CHVs since they started their surveillance for Covid-19 in June. As of 31 October, nearly 344 patients were successfully treated and discharged in the UNHCR-supported facilities,” added the report.

Meanwhile, 20 additional beds for patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms were added to Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital by the UNHCR. 

The UN body also supported the hospital in the recruitment of 43 new staff – including 10 medical doctors, 15 staff nurses, a senior nurse, an Infection Prevention and Control supervisor and others – for the Covid-19 dedicated ward.

Medication and specialized equipment were also provided by UNHCR, including walled oxygen, oxygen pumps, infusion and syringe pumps and PPEs. 

IVR used to raise awareness over Covid-19 among Rohingyas

The UNHCR and community-based protection partners continue to work with the Rohingya community to conduct awareness-raising sessions on Covid-19 prevention and response in the camps. Cumulatively since March, UNHCR-supported Community Outreach Members (COMs) have reached over 178,000 refugees with messages on Covid-19, complementing the ongoing camp-wide communication efforts to impart accurate information to refugees about the virus, read the report. 

COMs have focused in particular on the elderly and other refugees identified as vulnerable. A survey is planned to assess the impact of awareness-raising activities across 20 camps, added the report.

“UNHCR’s use of an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to disseminate important information to refugees from UNHCR through mobile phones without refugees bearing any communication cost has cumulatively generated 211,336 broadcast calls to refugees, of which 120,585 were answered. 

“Broadcast messages focused on Covid-19, elderly care, quarantine and isolation, use of masks, contact tracing and monsoon and cyclone preparedness. Based on the feedback from the community, the IVR has proven effective in providing useful information to mitigate the potential transmission of Covid-19,” the report said.

The recent restoration of internet services in the Rohingya camps is offering more opportunities to spread information through audio messages and facilitate updates and communication with refugee volunteers, said the UN body adding, “Is working with BBC Media Action to tailor selected messages on Covid-19 and other issues based on contextual developments within the camps.”

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