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Bangladesh

“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.

Cox's Bazar

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.

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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.

Kamrangirchar 

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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