Myanmar’s COVID-19 containment plans cracking . . .
The number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar currently stands at 9,112 and is fast rising. The country’s containment strategy, achieved by quarantining thousands of people to prevent outbreaks, is on the brink of failure. Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, has been locked down and international travel from the country halted. Public health experts worry that a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases could overwhelm Myanmar’s fragile health-care system, including its quarantine centres. Meanwhile, neighbouring Bangladesh has recorded more than 350,000 cases, and the number of infections in the overpopulated Rohingya refugee camps in the country is also fast rising.
Bangladesh’s refugee camps bursting at the seams . . .
Over one million Rohingya Muslims fled the Rakhine State in Myanmar following a military crackdown in 2017, the majority finding shelter in two refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. With the camps bursting at the seams, Bhasan Char, a silt island located hours away by boat from the mainland, has been proposed as an alternate refugee encampment by the Bangladesh government. Rohingya leaders that have toured the island have expressed concerns over the low-lying islands’ suitability. The 300 Rohingya refugees currently inhabiting Bhasan Char were initially intercepted in April while seeking to escape the Cox’s Bazaar refugee camps by boat. Bangladeshi authorities moved the refugees to the island under the pretext of quarantining them for two weeks, but they have since become permanent residents. Women have complained about sexual assault by male police and being held against their will and in jail-like conditions on the island.
UNGA to discuss Rohingya future . . .
While the Rohingya refugees fight for survival, the Bangladeshi government is seeking to raise the humanitarian crisis at the 75th United Nations General Assembly. Bangladesh initially proposed Bhasan Char as a Rohingya refugee camp in 2015, but the United Nations and human rights groups opposed the plans. Pundits have noted that the island is susceptible to natural calamities and flooding from cyclones and tidal waves common in the Bay of Bengal. Furthermore, the refugees face isolation, lack of freedom of movement, lack of adequate access to food or medical care on the island. We will be watching the UNGA closely to see how world leaders come to determine a million people's fate.