Recognizing the risks that the COVID-19 outbreak could pose to one of the largest refugee camps in the world, the Government of Bangladesh and the humanitarian community including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh are now delivering a wide array of supports to ensure that health services in place for both Rohingya refugees and the host community are ready.
In Bangladesh, 621 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 34 people have died as of 12 April 2020 according to the Directorate General of Health Service. However, no positive cases have so far been reported across the congested Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas in Cox’s Bazar as of yet.
All the 35 health care facilities supported by IOM continue to provide essential primary health care services, while implementing partners have trained community health workers and volunteers. This has resulted in 35,399 door-to-door awareness visits, 402 court-yard sessions and 18,553 peer to peer discussions, meaning that with COVID-19 preventive messages have reached 113,087 people.
COVID-19 case management orientations were also held for 260 IOM health staff, including sessions on infection prevention control and risk communication. Altogether, around 600 staff received the general briefing on COVID-19 including ongoing updates, clinical features, preventative measures and travel recommendations.
Furthermore, to ensure staff safety, health facilities were provided with personal protection equipment, including 1,710 disposable gowns, 3,900 examination gloves, 13,500 face masks, 1,020 face shields, 39 gum boots, 630 N95 respirators and 540 liquid hand wash dispensers. In addition, 31 infrared thermal scanners were distributed for setting up safe triage at health facilities for COVID-19, continued procurement is underway.
Dr. Samir Kumar Howlader, IOM National Health Programme Officer said: “IOM continues to coordinate with the Directorate General of Health Services, Civil Surgeon Office and the World Bank to support government isolation centres at Chakaria and Ramu upazilas in Cox’s Bazar.” He added, “IOM has extended its support to Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital with 10 Medical Officers, one Radiologist, one Radiographer, one Sanitation Officer and 15 Cleaners and will supply PPEs for the health care providers.”
At the request of the local authorities, two ambulances have been assigned to support the referral of COVID-19 cases. Ambulance support has been provided for the transport of seven contacts of a suspected case as well as transport of samples from the contacts.
IOM organized a day-long training with WHO for 19 ambulance staff, including drivers, medical escorts and hotline operators on infection prevention and control (IPC) in ambulances. IOM medical team is also establishing an ambulance disinfection point in Cox’s Bazar for cleaning and decontaminating ambulances designated for handling COVID-19 cases. IOM plans to set-up two more of such disinfection points in Ukhiya and Teknaf.
To mitigate impact on the camps, the construction of two isolation and treatment centres with 100-bed capacity each at Leda (Camp 24) and the greater Kutupalong Balukhali Extension (KBE) camps are ongoing. Four Primary Healthcare Centres have been readied to offer temporary isolation support for potential COVID-19 cases within the camps. Necessary renovations and procurement processes are underway to scale-up the isolation bed capacity within each centre.
Despite movement restrictions, IOM Communication with Communities (CwC) teams and others continue using public audio forums and radio programmes to communicate hygiene and health-related messages with awareness-raising materials.
IOM is working with community leaders in the camps and the host community areas to encourage behavioural changes in line with the guidance provided by DGHS. Supplementing these efforts are other IOM teams in Protection, Site Management and WASH, which have also conducted awareness-raising measures that have reached more than 300,000 beneficiaries.
IOM Bangladesh’s COVID-19 response is supported by the Governments of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and United States of America.