PART I: RESPONSE PLAN OVERVIEW
OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
As of 28 June, Bangladesh had reported 133,978 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 2,526 of which had been identified in Cox’s Bazar District, including 50 Rohingya refugees.
Cox’s Bazar District is at extreme risk, given the highly congested conditions in the refugee camps, the high levels of vulnerability among the Rohingya refugee and Bangladeshi communities, and a national healthcare system that was already under severe strain before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government and humanitarian partners have mobilized to mitigate and respond to the impact of the virus on the Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshis that live in Cox’s Bazar District. Some 860,000 Rohingya refugees currently reside in 34 highly congested camps formally designated by the Government of Bangladesh in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas of Cox’s Bazar District; these refugee camps are among the most densely populated places on earth, and the overcrowding and unhygienic conditions increase the potential for the rapid spread of communicable diseases.
The Rohingya refugee population is entirely reliant on humanitarian assistance. It is essential to sustain the response for pre-existing, priority humanitarian needs, while strengthening and complementing it to address the additional response requirements from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the overall protection environment. Travel restrictions driven by public health imperatives and global supply constraints present serious challenges. A surge in personnel– particularly medical experts – and the delivery of critical supplies and equipment are urgently required to scale up the response, including the creation of new COVID-19 treatment facilities. Even all targets set in this plan are realised, the number of refugees and local Bangladeshis needing hospitalization will likely far surpass the availability of beds.
On 22 March, to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Bangladesh issued directives closing all non-essential businesses and offices and calling upon people to stay at home, except when needed to meet essential needs. The Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) similarly announced on 24 March that humanitarian operations in the camps would move to essential services only, in order to reduce the aid worker “footprint” of the operation and reduce the risk of introducing the virus into the camps.
In coordination with the humanitarian agencies, the RRRC further narrowed to scope of operations to critical services only from 8 April. The Government has also suspended all domestic and most international flights by 30 March, and entry into Cox’s Bazar District is also restricted.
The District Deputy Commissioner leads the overall response in Cox’s Bazar District, while the RRRC coordinates the operational response in the Rohingya settlements. A Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) and a Control Room are now functioning in the Offices of the Civil Surgeon and Deputy Commissioner, respectively, and the Civil Surgeon has established a technical committee and medical response team at District and Upazila levels. The Bangladesh Army has been supporting the civilian administration with the COVID-19 response since 22 March, both nationally and in Cox’s Bazar District, including at the Upazila level through support for the establishment of quarantine facilities and the reinforcement of emergency services, as well as by ensuring adherence to Government directives and movement restrictions. The United Nations has supported the Government in establishing and strengthening COVID-19 testing capacity in Cox’s Bazar, which began in early April with initial capacity of 30 tests per day, now expanded to 500 tests per day, with the goal of 1,000 tests per day. Efforts are underway to increase testing capacity further for Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshis both in Cox’s Bazar and surrounding Districts in Chittagong Division.