First coronavirus case confirmed in crowded Bangladesh refugee camps

Health officials on Thursday confirmed the first coronavirus case in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, where over a million people are taking shelter in crowded spaces, according to The Associated Press

The infected refugee and one Bangladeshi citizen who also tested positive in the area have been isolated, said Mahbub Alam Talukder, the country’s refugee commissioner.

About 103,600 people are living per square mile of the camps, 40 times Bangladesh’s average population density, according to the AP. As many as 12 people live in a unit, and refugees have expressed concern over access to clean water and sanitation equipment. 

“Here in the camps it’s difficult to protect our health from the virus because there are so many people in a small place,” Ro Sawyeddollah, a camp resident and executive director of the Rohingya Students Union, told the AP.

Residents in the 34 camps in Bangladesh have not been allowed internet access or mobile phones.

“Because of COVID-19, people can’t meet one another, so it’s impossible to share any messages or information without the internet,” Sawyeddollah said.

As of Thursday, Bangladesh has reported 18,863 cases of the coronavirus and 283 deaths from it.

Most ethnic Rohingya have fled Myanmar since 2017 after the nation’s military allegedly conducted a campaign of mass rapes and killings and burning thousands of Rohingya homes.

Officials in Buddhist-majority Myanmar consider the Muslim Rohingya to be immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many have lived there for generations. 

Tags Coronavirus Myanmar refugee camps Rohingya conflict Rohingya people

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