Farid Abu Ahmed

The pandemic of the COVID-19 is nearing the coastal city of Cox’s Bazar close to the areas of Rohingya refugee camps. The world is aware of these Rohingya Muslim minorities survived the brutal massacres of the Myanmar Buddhists military and monks and to escape they took refuge in Bangladesh since 2017.

The lives of thousands of them are being threatened by the pandemic of the era, Covid-19, which according to recent data published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has so far claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people, and affected more than 800,000 during a short period of time.

The international community has failed and collapsed in facing this virus, as it steadily spreads and advances to more and more countries and cities.
WHO has considered COVID -19 as a pandemic, and the organization is trying its level best to find solutions to stop it, but with no immediate result, in fact the organisation has indicated that it may take some time.

The Rohingyas are in real danger from COVID-19 as stated by many official
authorities concerning health like WHO, Bangladesh Health Ministry,
International Humanitarian organizations and respected media groups and
A WHO official said yesterday that the global COVID-19 pandemic is “far from over” in the Asia Pacific region and that current measures to curb its spread is only to give some time for countries to prepare for widespread transmission of infection.
And the UN official is referring here to states and countries but not to the
miserable camps for Rohingya refugees who are displaced from their homes and expelled by their governments.
Yes, COVID-19 threatens the lives of thousands of Rohingyas, for several main reasons, which are:
1-The sewage-soaked alleys and cramped camps, wretched health conditions are fertile grounds for any chronic disease and this may help the rapid spread of the COVID-19
2- The lack of necessary health awareness and health education among the
refugees also may help spread of the COVID-19
3- The narrow geographical scope of the area, the overcrowded camps and
daily long queues to receive basic live essentials makes it virtually impossible for quarantine, isolation or social distancing as proposed by medical specialists in tackling COVID-19.
4- Difficulties in maintaining hygienic standards in the camps, lack of pure
water and tubes wells, and protective supplies such as soaps, disinfectants, face masks, and other tools.
5- Finally, obtaining appropriate health care in the normal days is already a big challenge and real dilemma in the first place, what about at the time of epidemic like COVID,-19 which threatens all of humanity.

In light of this bitter reality, the Rohingya activists initially offered their
capabilities to save their fellow brethren from this emerging pandemic by all
means possible, and appeals to governments, NGOs and individuals to work
with them in facing this imminent danger and to get out of it with minimal
losses and avoid what is avoidable.

The risk of COVID-19 is not limited to Rohingyas in refugee camps in
Bangladesh only, but it also includes Rohingyas taking refuge in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India, and many others.

Most Rohingyas in those countries work in the field of constructions,
agriculture, cleaning, loading, unloading and other primitive work that earn them low wages. They get daily sustenance, which is not usually sufficient to support their families and relatives, and now at the time of pandemic as most countries are imposing mandatory quarantine or isolation and movement control order, Rohingyas are concerned about the threat of them going hungry and shortages in the basic materials for daily life without going out to earn a living which puts the possibility of their commitment to the instructions of the competent authorities in question.
At the same time, Rohingyas around the world show their respect and
appreciation toward countries such as The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Malaysia for such special initiatives launched to ease the plight of refugees during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing free health treatments and exempting them from the questions of illegal entry or overstaying.
Also, Rohingyas are thankful for humanitarian and charitable organizations that came forward to distribute essential aids to lessen their burden in these difficult circumstances.
The situation for thousands of Rohingya refugees in India is totally different. They are facing a miserable hardship and real human tragedy. The Indian government enforced 3 weeks lockdown nationwide last week which definitely affected the lives of over 40,000 Rohingyas sheltered there. In fact, the Refugees described the situation as “hunger will kill us before COVID-19”.
Finally, the most important question for the whole of humanity remains, how will the Rohingyas in the refugee camps, alone, face this most unwanted guest, who has defeated the entire world to date?

Farid Abu Ahmed
Rohingya activist
Kuala Lumpur