No water, soap to flatten the curve . . .
Social distancing, work from home, and maintaining personal hygiene are key to keeping COVID-19 at bay and flattening the pandemic’s curve. But how do the millions living in densely-populated refugee camps, with inadequate access to clean water and soap, keep this deadly virus at bay? According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Asia Pacific region, with the addition of Afghanistan, is home to 3.5 million refugees, with a significant percentage coming from Myanmar. Today, the 730,000 refugees who fled Myanmar following the 2017 military crackdown are mostly settled in Bangladesh, a country that has registered eight positive cases of COVID-19 in the past week.
At the brink of potential disaster . . .
The global outbreak of COVID-19 poses a significant risk to vulnerable populations living in overly crowded and poorly maintained camps, such as Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Health officials are doubtful about their ability to contain the spread of the virus within such camps due to crowding and lack of medical facilities. The UNHCR is now training women in Cox’s Bazar to promote hygiene within the community as they are uniquely placed to influence their family members and aid in the implementation of emergency response plans.
Global role in mitigation . . .
On February 26, the Uyghur Human Rights Project shared a video along with a briefing outlining the plight of the Uyghur people going without access to food and medical care in the Xinjiang region of China. Amidst the fear of COVID-19 adversely affecting the already diminishing Uyghur population, reports also suggest that the Chinese government continues to use Xinjiang residents as forced factory labour. While countries around the world are going into lockdown mode and trying to protect their own populations, it is important to devise plans that encompass minorities and other vulnerable populations in other regions of the world.