Bangladesh risks losing decades of child development gains as Coronavirus sweeps through the country

Athena Rayburn, Senior Advocacy Manager in Cox’s Bazar, said:

“We are deeply worried about the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on Bangladesh, as the country’s total caseload nears 20,000. Now that the virus has entered the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar we are looking at the very real prospect that thousands of people may die from COVID-19. This pandemic could set Bangladesh back by decades. 

“Despite the best efforts of aid agencies and the government of Bangladesh, healthcare capacity in the refugee camps is limited and across the country is overwhelmed due to COVID 19. There are only an estimated 2,000 ventilators in all of Bangladesh, serving a population of 160 million people. In the Rohingya refugee camps – home to nearly a million people – there are no intensive care beds at this moment.

“Save the Children is urgently calling for the international community to stand in solidarity with Bangladesh and provide funds and much-needed medical resources to protect the Rohingya population and the host community. Inaction could lead to a disastrous and preventable loss of life.

“A refugee camp is no place for a child to grow up. COVID-19 has exposed how vulnerable Rohingya refugees are. The international community must therefore urgently find a long-term solution to their plight. Rohingya refugee children cannot be allowed to spend their lives without access to formal education, healthcare and with severe restrictions on their freedom of movement.” 


Notes to the editor:

  • Health infrastructure in Cox’s Bazar does not have the capacity to respond to a large-scale outbreak. Bangladesh, at the beginning of May, reported over 2,948 cases of COVID-19. Current projections predict a major spike in infections by end of May, and between 459,968 and 591,349 infections over the next 12 months. Specialized medical equipment needed to treat the most severe symptoms, such as oxygen support or ventilators, is not commonly available, with the closest ventilation equipment hundreds of kilometres away and not accessible to refugees. There are no triage or isolation facilities available. Even without an outbreak, the inpatient bed capacity in Cox’s Bazar is often close to full occupancy. Families will have no choice but to care for their sick in their homes and communities, which further fuels the rapid spread of the virus.
  • Save the Children is working on the front line to keep that window open by preventing the transmission of the virus and preparing health workers and health facilities, but we cannot do this alone. Most urgently of all, Save the Children has been requested by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to establish an Isolation and Treatment Centre (ITC) in Cox’s Bazar. With cases projected to rapidly spike within the next two weeks, it is critical this facility is operational as soon as possible to slow transmission and save lives. By opening the ITC and delivering emergency response activities in the community as quickly as we can, we can reduce and slow down infection rates and save lives.

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