UK-Emergency Medical Teams’s COVID-19 response in the Rohingya Refugee Camps, Cox’s Bazar. 

Five UK Emergency Medical Team (UK EMT) members travelled to Bangladesh on May 7 to support the international effort in the Rohingya refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar, on the South Eastern Bangladesh border with Myanmar.

The highly skilled team are responding to a call from the Bangladesh Government to work with the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), the World Health Organisation (WHO), Save the Children and the UK Mission to the European Union (UKMIS) to set up and manage COVID-19 treatment centres in the camps.

With a population of nearly 1 million refugees, Cox’s Bazar district is home to Kutapalong, the world’s largest refugee camp which spans a meagre 13 square kilometres.  The camp is particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 because of the crowded living conditions and the lack of adequate health care facilities.

The latest in country WHO data (GMT: 16.42 24.06.20) shows 2,158 COVID-19  confirmed cases in Cox’s Bazar but only 46 cases amongst the Rohingya community.  According to UK-EMT Team Lead Mike Penrose, due to the lack of testing and cramped conditions in the camps – the official figures grossly misrepresent the real situation on the ground and the disease is widespread.

On-going work includes:

  • Assisting with the setting up and management of three severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) isolation treatment centres (ITCs) with a total of 240 beds.
  • Delivering comprehensive training in the clinical treatment ​and Infection, Prevention, Control management for COVID-19 to ​healthcare staff working in the SARI Treatment Centres.
  • Supporting the current ambulance service to increase its capacity ready for the increased need.
  • Creating patient rehabilitation guidance and training materials to ensure recovering patients receive the best care possible.

UK EMT Lead Mike Penrose talks about our main objectives in Bangladesh:

Building a SARI ITC to accommodate 120 hospital beds (Collis 2020)
ITC Coordinator Melanie Johnson discusses the running of the SARI ITC with our IOM team (Collis 2020)
ITC Coordinator Melanie Johnson discusses the running of the SARI ITC with our IOM team (Collis 2020)
Training day for SARI ITC staff at Camp Leda (Collis 2020)
Training day for SARI ITC staff at Camp Leda (Collis 2020)

Our highly skilled team, led by humanitarian operations expert, Mike Penrose, former CEO of Unicef UK and Action Against Hunger in France, includes:

Sarah Collis

UK-Med’s Health Programme’s Manager (Outbreak) and current UK EMT Lead

A humanitarian health professional with over seven years’ combined experience in the UK and overseas in clinical nursing, primary health provision and emergency co-ordination; public health in emergencies, especially outbreak response; infection prevention control, field epidemiology and public health for vulnerable populations.

Mel Johnson

UK-Med’s Humanitarian Health Advisor and EMT ITC Co-ordinator

A nurse and humanitarian health professional with five years experience in the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps and NHS. Melanie's areas of expertise include pre-hospital and emergency care, secondary care including medical, surgical and isolation settings, clinical training, management and leadership.

Alex Hunter

UK-Med’s Emergency WASH Advisor (water, sanitation and hygiene)

Alex has 5 years WASH experience working at all stages of a response in emergency water supply and sanitation, borehole decontamination, drilling, rehabilitation and upgrading. He’s also worked on community engagement, hygiene promotion and behaviour change projects in Madagascar, Malawi and Cox’s Bazar - Bangladesh in 2018 and 2020.

Rory Peters

EMT Logistics and Training Manager

From Southampton, with over six years’ experience working in unstable and extreme humanitarian contexts around the world.

Gaelle Smith

Global Emergency (EMT) Rehabilitation Advisor, Humanity & Inclusion

A specialist in outbreak-related rehabilitation, Gaelle is supporting the EMT team in Bangladesh remotely. Her clinical experiences include critical respiratory physiotherapy care and long term rehabilitation during the recovery phase and understanding and planning for the long-term rehabilitation needs of affected populations.