DHAKA – Bangladesh’s government and aid agencies began vaccinating Rohingya refugees on Tuesday, as the virus escalation poses health risks in the sprawling, cramped camps where more than one million people fleeing Myanmar are taking refuge.
The highly permeable delta variant is causing an infection surge in Bangladesh, with nearly 20,000 infections and 200 deaths so far recorded in Cox’s Bazar district, the southern region bordering Myanmar where 34 refugee camps are located.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said a national positivity rate of around 30% indicates that the spread of COVID-19 is very high, especially in the cramped conditions and those faced by many living in refugee camps. with risks.
The government’s civil surgeon’s office and aid agencies in Cox’s Bazar launched vaccination campaigns in 34 camps alongside Bangladesh’s national immunization effort.
According to a statement by the international body, around 500 Bangladesh Red Crescent workers and volunteer health workers joined the campaign in collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Rohingya community leaders, frontline health care volunteers in the camps and Rohingya over the age of 55 are among the first to be vaccinated. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in an email to the Associated Press, more than 65,000 of the approximately 900,000 refugees will be vaccinated in the first group.
Bangladesh has reported more than 1.3 million infections, including 22,897 deaths from COVID-19, since the pandemic began.
More than 700,000 Rohingya fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar in 2017 as a harsh military crackdown against the ethnic group following an attack by rebels. Other Rohingya have lived in refugee camps in Bangladesh after waves of persecution.
The 2017 crackdown included rape, killings and setting thousands of homes on fire, and was dubbed ethnic cleansing by global rights groups and the United Nations. While Bangladesh and Myanmar have sought to make arrangements for repatriation, the Rohingya are too afraid to return home.