Bangladesh locks down Rohingya refugees' district amid pandemic
Bangladesh has imposed a lockdown in a southern district that hosts more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims in an attempt to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in the crowded refugee camps, officials said on Wednesday.
"Entry and exit from Cox's Bazar district is prohibited from now on," Kamal Hossain, chief of the district administration, said in a statement, after the country reported 218 cases of coronavirus and 20 deaths.
Stringent legal actions are to be taken against those who violate the order, Hossain said, adding that the restriction had been imposed in the "public interest."
More than 1 million Rohingya Muslims have been living in squalid camps in the south-eastern Bangladeshi district after they fled persecution in predominantly Buddhist neighbour Myanmar. Of them, nearly 750,000 crossed the border following the 2017 military crackdown on the minority group in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state.
Rohingya in Bangladesh: anniversary of the exodus
A year ago, the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar began. Hundreds of thousands fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. Andrea Marshall gives her impressions of the refugee camp Kutupalong in Bangladesh.
Dusty, hot, narrow – and almost as big as Cologne: Rohingya began fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh decades ago. A refugee camp grew up next to the village of Kutupalong. As a result of the mass exodus since August 2017, the number of inhabitants there has risen sharply and further camps have been set up. A total of almost one million people now live there – a city almost the size of Cologne, but without the infrastructure
Football fever in the refugee camp: international flags fly at the entrance to the Kutupalong refugee camp. During the World Cup, the Brazilian, Argentinian and occasionally even the German flag were to be seen. Football fever gripped the camp and the surrounding villages, prompting coverage by citizen reporters. Even in a difficult situation there is joie de vivre
Monsoon floods and landslides: threatened by cyclones in the spring and torrential rains during the monsoon season, life here is mostly about coping with extreme hardship. The programme "Palonger Hotha" by citizen reporters serves partly to disseminate vital information: where can I find bamboo poles to reinforce the accommodation? Which residential areas should be evacuated because of the threat of mudslides?
The aim of the mission is also to strengthen people's identity by taking their everyday experiences seriously. The team of reporters, consisting of young Rohingya and local Bangladeshi people, asked: What is the impact on family life when you have to sit huddled together in a narrow hut for hours on end due to the weather?
Collecting constructive ideas: an important concern of the citizen reporters is to find constructive ideas and inspire the listeners. Reporter Sajeda reported on "hanging vegetable gardens" where beans are planted – a way to improve the food supply despite the limited space. There are also reports featuring household remedies for diseases that accumulate in the rainy season for hygienic reasons
Education instead of "lost generation": how do children remember their way home? What can they do to ensure they donʹt get lost in the huge refugee camp? What are the challenges of the Learning Centres in the camp? For reporter Iqbal, the education of the refugee children is a special concern. There are no real schools for them
Elephant alarm new for Rohingya: the refugee camp is on the route of the Asian elephants. At the beginning of the year there were several deaths after people in the camp tried to chase the animals away. The United Nations organised training courses on the correct handling of elephants, while "Palonger Hotha" reporters covered the initiative
Green hills deforested: some Bangladeshi people from the area have found work in connection with the refugee camp. But they also complain that hundreds of thousands of newly arrived Rohingya have raised food prices in the region. Hills have been deforested because the refugees needed space and firewood. That is why it is important to include the perspective of the locals on citizensʹ radio
Conflict-sensitive approach: the "Palonger Hotha" team with their local trainer Mainul Khan aims to deal responsibly with potentially sensitive issues. Politics is not the subject of the programme. On the other hand, the UNHCR's "Smart Card", which is supposed to facilitate the (voluntary) return of refugees to Myanmar and has been met with suspicion by many, is well reported
Overcoming the trauma: on the anniversary of the beginning of the mass exodus on 25 August, traumatic experiences were shared. People also told us how they cope with their trauma – one step at a time
Aid agencies fear that an outbreak in the tightly packed Rohingya camps, one of the largest refugee settlements worldwide, would be tough because of population density and a lack of medical facilities. UN refugee agency UNHCR's spokeswoman Louise Donovan said Cox's Bazar district has extremely limited capacity to provide intensive care treatment.
But the government earlier said efforts were being made to improve hospital beds, isolation and quarantine facilities.
A coronavirus case was reported in the district last month, but the patient, a Saudi Arab returnee, twice tested negative and was released from hospital.
Bangladesh imposed a nationwide transport restriction alongside closure of all non-essential public and private offices, as well as schools, in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. (dpa)