“Not fit for a human”: coronavirus in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps | News from the world


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Every morning at 6.30 am, Mohamed Meah’s children queue up for half an hour in a nearby well. After filling their containers, they walk painfully for 15 minutes up the hill to their home. They make the same trip at noon, and sometimes in the evening, bringing the water back to their bamboo and tarp shelter.

There was a water point a few minutes away, says Meah, but it has been broken for almost a year. Today, the family of 13 depends on the tube well which must serve a greater number of families. Her children, who do not have a mask, wait their turn alongside the others. There is little social distancing.

Even before the epidemic, access to water was one of the biggest problems his family faced, says Meah. Today, the need for clean water, so families can wash their hands and reduce the risk of spreading the virus, is even more urgent.

Fortunately, there are no known cases of coronavirus in Camp 17, but everyone is on high alert and the lockout means that the already difficult conditions have become even more difficult.

“I have 13 family members, so it’s very difficult,” he says. They depend on rations and barely have enough to eat. Many people in the camps have lost their jobs due to isolation, and services provided by NGOs have been cut to reduce the risk of aid workers bringing the virus with them. Meah is still able to work in a madrasa school, but no one else in the family wins. They cannot afford to buy extra vegetables or snacks for the kids.

“Whenever we see people, we talk about Covid-19 and the situation in the camp. We are trying to get more information from each other, “he said. A ban on the Internet means that there is no way to access reliable information, and that people rely instead on word of mouth.

There are a lot of children living in the camps

Meah said if he developed any symptoms, he would go to the clinic, about a half hour walk, and follow the treatment he was given. But he doesn’t know what to expect. Many people are hesitant to go, he adds. Some have had bad experiences in the past or fear being sent to solitary confinement.

Social distance from home, he says, would not be possible. “We all sleep together. There is no space. “

Camp 17 profile

Of 376 work tube well in this camp, 131 of them are near a latrine

Average population density

3 times


populated as

the UK the most

densely populated city

Of 376 work tube well in this camp, 131 of them are near a latrine

Average population density

3 times more densely populated than the most populous city in the UK

Source: UNHCR 2020, REACH 2019, GLA 2018. See end for full source notes.


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