The Rohingya population has suffered unimaginable hardships

UK EMT and the IOM:
Six-months of progress in Cox’s Bazar

Three years ago, a million Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee their homes in Myanmar and cross the borders to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Camps were set up in Cox’s Bazar, an area prone to cyclones and flooding, and now one of the largest refugee settlements in the world. The challenges they face are many – cramped and unsanitary living conditions, lack of food and minimal opportunities to earn a living.

For the Rohingya, already at risk of malnutrition and infectious diseases, the COVID-19 pandemic adds another challenge to a difficult life in the camps.

IPC Advisor Zipporah Onyancha training staff in donning and doffing
Midwife Sophia Otieno delivering documentation and quality checklists training
Donning and doffing training (UK EMT Sept 2020)

UK MED – IOM partnership:

In May of this year, UK-Med members as part of the UK Emergency Medical Team (UK EMT) and the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) joined forces to fight the spread of COVID-19 throughout Cox’s Bazar.

The partnership focuses on improving Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures while supporting case management and referral systems for both Rohingya and neighbouring Bangladeshi communities.

This is the second time UK EMT (funded by the UK Government’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office) and IOM have worked together in Cox’s Bazar. In 2017 UK Med members as part of the UK EMT supported a diphtheria outbreak response in the Rohingya refugee camps.

Dr Charles Erik Halder esports dignitaries at opening of Camp 20 Ext.
Camp 20 Extension SARI ITC

Partnership achievements:

• Designed, constructed and equipped three Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Isolation and Treatment Centres (SARI ITCs) to provide dignified and efficient treatment to those infected with COVID-19.

• Upgraded two existing health facilities.

• Trained hundreds of health workers.

• Established Health Outreach Teams to encourage healthy behaviour, strengthen communication with communities and promote the use of the health facilities (for COVID-19 and other essential health services).

Dr. Charles Erik Halder, a National Program Officer for IOM’s Emergency Preparedness & Response Programme in Cox’s Bazar said of the partnership: “The joint efforts between IOM and UK EMT greatly benefit COVID-19 response efforts, especially for the most vulnerable in Cox’s Bazar. The support provided by UK EMT on capacity building, technical guidance and supervision of clinical teams enhances the quality of service provided to both host community and refugee populations,”

The first team of UK-Med professionals as part of the UK EMT were in Cox’s Bazar from May to July 2020, while the second team of experts arrived in July 2020 and remain on the ground, working with IOM to:

  • improve the quality of care in SARI ITCs,
  • improve Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) and IPC initiatives,
  • provide training and capacity-building for Health Workers
  • and strengthen the local capacity for active case surveillance and home-based care.
UK-Med staff - Team One, with IOM staff. (Penrose, July August 2020)
UK-Med members - Team Two with IOM staff (UK-EMT August 2020)

Sarah Collis, UK Med’s Senior Health Advisor and Health Lead of UK EMT’s first team said of the partnership: “Working with IOM was an incredible experience for the UK EMT. We were quickly welcomed into the team which enabled us to get straight to work, sharing our technical knowledge and immediately driving the response forward.”

She added: “The relationship was open and collaborative from the beginning and it was clear that both teams were committed to ensuring the Rohingya and host populations had access to quality COVID-19 services in Cox’s Bazaar. UK EMT also supported the development of trainings and guidelines at coordination level in areas such as palliative care and rehabilitation, working closely with WHO and supporting coherence and cooperation amongst partners.”

UK-Med is committed to continuing this vital work in Cox’s Bazar.

You can support our work by making a donation here.

COVID-19 in Cox’s Bazar

  • The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Cox’s Bazar was found on March 23, 2020. As of 11 October 2020, 4,602 cases among the host community have been confirmed in the district. In the Rohingya refugee settlements, a total 276 COVID-19 cases have been found and eight deaths have been officially recorded. Of the 276 confirmed, 134 patients have recovered and 134 are isolated in health facilities within the camp.
  • In the Rohingya refugee settlements, a total 276 COVID-19 cases have been found and eight deaths have been officially recorded. Of the 276 confirmed, 134 patients have recovered and 134 are isolated in health facilities within the camp.

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