The World Health Organization (WHO) has said protection of the most vulnerable population is central to their efforts and they have scaled up measures to protect the Rohingyas and their host communities from COVID-19.
WHO and health partners in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, have been working round the clock to scale up measures to that end.
“Protection of the most vulnerable population is central to WHO’s efforts as we continue to work with countries to control the pandemic by slowing down transmission and reducing mortality,” says Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.
Disease surveillance is at the heart of evidence-based response, WHO said on Tuesday.
WHO's early warning and response disease surveillance system in Cox’s Bazar provides crucial information on diseases of outbreak potential to ensure timely response and containment measures.
WHO has trained over 300 volunteers on contact tracing using Go.Data software to allow for efficient and effective contact tracing of those persons who have been in contact with confirmed positive cases.
As on 28 June, as many as 2,456 cases of infection have been confirmed in Cox’s Bazar District and 50 refugees have tested positive in the Rohingya camps.
“Testing is key to initiate timely response against COVID-19. To scale up diagnostic confirmation of COVID-19 cases in Cox’s Bazar, WHO has provided necessary equipment, supplies, personnel and technical guidance to the Field Laboratory of Bangladesh’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR),” says Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Representative to Bangladesh.
He said the laboratory now tests over 500 samples of COVID-19 each day from the camps as well as the host population of Cox’s Bazar and neighbouring districts.
Applying stringent infection prevention and control measures in healthcare facilities, communities and households is crucial to prevent transmission and amplification of cases.
WHO has trained over 1,000 health personnel as well as those from other sectors of the government and humanitarian agencies in Cox’s Bazar on infection prevention and control and continues to provide supportive on-site supervision.
With technical support from WHO, partners are setting up isolation and treatment centres with over 1,000 extra beds for patients with severe acute respiratory infections in the camps.
While around 400 beds are currently operational, the full capacity should become operational by mid-July 2020.
WHO has also trained over 250 health personnel in Cox’s Bazar on clinical case management of COVID-19 to ensure treatment protocol is in line with recommended guidelines and meets minimum standards.
However, there are many challenges, WHO said adding that some globally recommended preventive measures such as physical distancing are difficult to implement in the densely populated refugees camps.
Low literacy levels and lack of written script for the Rohingya language pose additional challenges for refugees to obtain authentic information on the coronavirus.
The Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, WHO said, are the world’s largest refugee camp cluster, comprising over 850,000 refugees living in extremely crowded conditions, which has put immense pressure on essential services such as water, electricity and healthcare.