COVID-19 SPECIAL: Bangladesh, Mali, Central African Republic

 IOM doctor helps a Rohingya family in the Kutupalong refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. IOM doctor helps a Rohingya family in the Kutupalong refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. © Fiona MacGregor / IOM


In Focus by Silvia Luminati; Editor: Aleksandra Krol

 1. Bangladesh

As of 24 March, one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in the Cox’s Bazar District which hosts the world’s largest refugee settlement (nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees). Since September 2019, the government of Bangladesh has banned Rohingya refugees from using the internet. As a response, the Human Rights Watch criticized the shutdown in and around the camps “which is obstructing crucial information about symptoms and prevention” whereas the United Nations Human Rights Office has urged the government to “refrain from blocking internet access” during the COVID-19 epidemic. Moreover, local health experts have warned that the poor living conditions at camps, such as the common use of hand-pumps and toilets, are exposing the Rohingya refugees to a greater risk of contracting the virus.


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2. Mali

To date, Mali has confirmed 46 positive COVID-19 cases. The UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is continuing its mission in working towards the prevention of the coronavirus outbreak. Currently, there are 171,000 internally displaced people in the country who have difficulty accessing health services and water. The COVID-19 epidemic risks further weakening of the health infrastructure, which is inadequately equipped and exposes the Malian people to  serious risks, as one fourth of them already depend on humanitarian assistance. 


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3. Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the least developed countries in the world. The outbreak’s impact in this area could be disastrous, especially for the displaced population in the country. There are nearly 700,000 displaced people in camps with no proper access to water, hygiene and sanitation while 2.2 million people are in need of health assistance. Moreover, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, there are only three available ventilators for 5 million people in the country. In such a scenario, there is a high risk that CAR’s healthcare system will not be able to withstand the burden. So far, CAR has confirmed 11 COVID-19 cases.


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