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“Hundreds of thousands of refugees are living in an extremely precarious situation"

Ensuring the continuity of healthcare amid the COVID-19 pandemic was crucial in Bangladesh. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) adapted services to respond to the virus, while maintaining other lifesaving activities. 

Rohingya refugees and vulnerable communities in urban slums remain the focus of our projects in the country.

MSF's work in Bangladesh in 2021:

In 2021, we also supported the COVID-19 response.

Between July and October, we set up and ran an emergency 16-bed COVID-19 treatment centre for people with moderate-to-severe symptoms. MSF also supported the only government-run vaccination campaign in a refugee setting in Bangladesh, and assisted with staff recruitment and training.

Last year, almost 2,500 patients were admitted in MSF’s Hospital on the Hill and close to 3,000 patients –half of them, locals- are receiving regular treatment for non- chronic communicable diseases. (April, 2021).

Cox’s Bazar
Across 10 facilities, we provide a range of specialist healthcare to address some of the vast health needs of more than 920,000 Rohingya refugees living in the camps, as well as a growing number of patients from the host community. Services include general healthcare, treatment of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, emergency care for trauma patients and women’s healthcare. We also upgraded water and sanitation in the camps.

In 2021, our teams continued to witness the medical consequences of deteriorating camp conditions. Dire water and sanitation services, fires, flooding and movement restrictions all affect the ability of Rohingya to live in dignity. MSF is the largest provider of specialist psychiatric care for people suffering from severe mental health conditions, such as psychosis and anxiety disorders, which often stem from living in the camp environment and a sense of hopelessness about their future.

During the year, we handed over some of our activities to local organisations, including an extensive water network powered by solar energy.

The morning after the fire, MSF teams made assessments in different parts of the so called ‘mega camp’ in order to detect unmet medical needs after the fire that destroyed thousands of shelters. (March, 2021).

The worst floods since the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in 2017 started with very heavy rains on 27th July and affected several parts the Cox’s Bazar area. (August, 2021).

We run two clinics in Kamrangirchar district, in the capital, Dhaka, offering reproductive healthcare, and medical and psychological treatment for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

We also provide occupational health services, which include treatment for workers diagnosed with diseases linked to their work environment, as well as preventive care and risk assessment in factories. Our medical assistance is tailored to the needs of people working in extremely hazardous conditions.

Patients waiting to get medical service at MSF mobile clinic Kamrangirchar, Dhaka, Bangladesh. (January, 2021)

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MSF's work in Bangladesh in 2020:

In 2020, MSF ran 12 facilities in Cox’s Bazar district, offering healthcare to both Rohingya and host communities. In three of these facilities, we set up dedicated isolation and treatment centres for severe acute respiratory tract infections. In six others, we adapted areas to treat potential COVID-19 patients.

Movement restrictions and other measures imposed by the authorities because of the pandemic reduced the presence of humanitarian workers and disrupted access to healthcare for Rohingya and Bangladeshi communities. The movement restrictions also led to increased challenges for the community, humanitarian organisations and the authorities.

MSF observed a sustained drop of around 50 per cent in outpatient consultations and a similar decrease in the number of refugees arriving with acute respiratory tract problems. This indicated that patients with COVID-19-related symptoms were not comfortable seeking care.

In the first months of the year, the COVID-19 pandemic led to extensive lockdowns in the region, which had an impact on our activities and the people we were assisting. With temperatures dropping and the number of COVID-19 cases increasing, migrants living outside the official accommodation system were transferred to camps, where they were forced to stay.

In December, we returned to the region to deliver care through mobile clinics to people stranded close to the border areas and to victims of violence. The restrictions, the need for staffing of COVID-19-related activities, as well as the protection of staff members from infection, forced us to scale down routine vaccinations and community surveillance, and completely suspend other activities, such as regular outreach, community engagement and hygiene promotion, as only Rohingya volunteers were allowed to raise awareness of health issues inside the camps.

We supported public efforts to reduce transmission risks and our teams distributed nearly 300,000 face masks in Ukhiya.


MSF runs two urban clinics in Kamrangirchar district in the capital, Dhaka, where we provide reproductive healthcare, and medical and psychological treatment for sexual and gender-based violence. We also provide occupational health services, which include treatment for workers diagnosed with occupational diseases, as well as preventive care and risk assessment in factories. 

Our medical assistance is tailored to the needs of people working in extremely hazardous conditions. In 2020, our teams conducted almost 5,000 consultations for factory workers. Additionally, our mobile clinics brought healthcare – including tetanus vaccinations – to tannery workers in Savar subdistrict.  

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