1,700 isolation beds being prepared for Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar

A process is underway to prepare 1,700 isolation beds in Cox’s Bazar for the Rohingyas and the host community as the displaced Myanmar nationals are at high risk of coronavirus infection in the cramped camps amid the ongoing pandemic.

“Mapping of isolation facilities, ambulances and 24/7 health facilities is ongoing. Planning is underway to prepare 1,700 beds for isolation and treatment across Cox’s Bazar district,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Louise Donovan told BSS.

She said health partners are now preparing all possible beds in the existing health facilities in the district while setting up 1,000 additional beds at several sites, and the government is being involved in all efforts to prepare isolation and treatment facilities.

Noting that UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM are taking the lead in setting up facilities on three of the identified sites, Donovan said UNHCR has already begun construction work on one site, while other partners will begin soon.

“Furthermore, quarantine facilities have also been established in several locations,” she added.

About the preparedness to fight COVID-19, the UNHCR spokesperson said the needs of local primary health centres have been assessed and support is being provided in the form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers, as well as for the establishment of isolation areas.

PPE has been provided to the UN Clinic, RRRC Office, Sadar Hospital, the Civil Surgeon’s Office, and Upazila Health complex, she said, adding that health sector partners are mapping existing supplies and identifying urgent procurement needs, and medical staff capacity.

According to aid workers, huge efforts are underway to improve sanitation and hygiene conditions in the camps. All partners are ensuring that water and soap is readily available to all.

Additional measures, including increasing the number of hand washing facilities in distribution centres, health points, nutrition, community centres and other places, have been taken to this end.

Various measures have been introduced at distribution points in an attempt to ensure social distancing while queuing for assistance.

The Cox’s Bazar district administration, with the support of UN and NGO partners, has been carrying out disinfection work, including installation of hand-washing points in Cox’s Bazar city, with a plan to reach other areas of the district.

All wash and health partners are carrying out regular hygiene promotion activities within the camps. Furthermore, efforts are underway to clean and disinfect the community areas and neighbourhoods throughout the camps.

UNHCR spokesperson Louise Donovan said the overcrowded conditions in the camps pose a greater risk for spreading of the virus if there is an outbreak, where around 40,000 people are living in per square kilometre.

Social distancing is particularly challenging in such an environment, despite measures which have been put in place at distribution points throughout the camps to maintain distancing.

“At the moment, it is a race against time to establish isolation and treatment facilities in order to cater for patients if there is any outbreak in the camps,” Donovan said.

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All humanitarian partners, in support to the Bangladesh government, are working round-the-clock to ensure a minimum response capacity in the case of an outbreak since the situation is very concerning, she added. BSS