Nearly all Rohingya children living in refugee camps in Bangladesh are aware of COVID-19 and about 40 percent are afraid of dying of the disease or losing a family member to it, a new survey by Save the Children said.
Two-thirds of the children feared being infected and about half were distressed about the closing of play areas and learning centers in the camps that house about 1 million people in and around Cox’s Bazar district, the British-based child welfare NGO said in its report released early Friday morning (Bangladesh time).
“Children tell us they’re scared of dying. The fear of death or losing a loved one can be very distressing for a child, especially when many have already experienced intense trauma and loss, having been forced from their homes in Myanmar and stuck in a congested refugee camp for the past three years,” said Onno van Manen, the director of Save the Children in Bangladesh.
About 730,000 Rohingya have fled to Cox’s Bazar from Rakhine state in nearby Myanmar since a military crackdown in August 2017, joining hundreds of thousands already sheltering in the district’s sprawling but densely crowded camps.
Save the Children spoke to 223 children across several camps in Bangladesh to gauge their understanding about the coronavirus pandemic.
In a news release announcing the nine-page report, the group also announced it would be opening a 60-bed isolation and treatment center for suspected COVID-19 patients from the Rohingya camps and the surrounding Cox’s Bazar community. It did not give details about the date of the opening.
Forty-seven Rohingya have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and five have died after contracting the virus, compared to national figures of 126,606 and 1,621, according to the latest information from Bangladeshi health authorities. Globally, more than 9.4 million have been infected and more than 483,000 have died, according to disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
“Our new isolation and treatment center will offer care for moderate to severe cases of people with suspected and confirmed COVID-19. The center will be staffed by an expert team of 80 health professionals and support staff, including Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit, who have extensive experience in managing disease outbreaks," van Manen said.