Fear, Covid-19 stalk Rohingya refugee children | #covid19 | #kids | #childern

But top of everyone’s minds – not least those with the finances to help – should be the world’s most marginalized and at-risk children. If we don’t protect them, we have failed in our battle against Covid-19, as they will be impacted hard by a full-blown outbreak – they’ll lose loved ones, they will miss out on education, and they might need to work to help with the family income as caregivers fall ill or succumb to the virus.

In the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, leadership is not an issue. The Bangladeshi government moved quickly to implement a lockdown across the whole district. It is working closely with partners – including Save the Children – to respond to this new health crisis. 

However, resources can be a problem. In the subdistricts of Teknaf and Ukhia there are an estimated 850,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and 400,000 Bangladeshis. The Bangladeshis who live here are not rich – they eke out a living by farming and fishing. The refugees are even poorer. 

Having already fled for their lives in the face of brutal violence in Myanmar, Rohingya refugees now live in overcrowded camps. They share communal washing facilities and latrines. They live off the food distributed by aid agencies.

After decades of discrimination in Myanmar and poor facilities for learning in the camps, literacy and numeracy skills are low, their trust is limited, and the amount of misinformation swirling through the camps is high.

Covid-19 has now reached the world’s largest refugee settlement. Refugees and the humanitarian community have been preparing for this for some months. But despite that, it’s likely Covid-19 will quickly spread through the camps – which have a population density four times that of New York City. 

The atmosphere is one of fear. Findings from a recent consultation with Rohingya refugee children found that 64% of respondents reported they were scared of getting sick while 40% said they were worried they or someone they loved was going to die.

We will continue to do all we can to slow down the outbreak, but just as we have seen in Europe, Asia and the United States, we will not be able to stop it. Our job will be to treat those who become sick and save as many lives as possible.

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