'The mounting threat of the coronavirus disease outbreak in highly vulnerable displaced Rohingya people is a serious concern'
Three Rohingya rights groups have called upon the international community and the Myanmar government to come forward to protect Rohingya communities from the ongoing coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement issued on Monday, the Arakan Rohingya Union, United States Council of Muslim Organizations, and The European Rohingya Council called upon the international community to mobilize the government agencies, medical communities, and health care organizations to protect Rohingya refugee communities in South and Southeast Asia.
“The mounting threat of the coronavirus disease outbreak in highly vulnerable displaced Rohingya people is a serious concern. The Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh and India, and the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Arakan or Rakhine State, Myanmar, are some of the world’s most crowded camps with little or no sanitation,” they said in the statement.
The statement also highlighted that there were currently over 1.2 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. At the same time, over 200,000 internally displaced Rohingya and several thousand other ethnic groups live in high density squalid camps in Myanmar’s Arakan.
“There is limited access to those IDP camps for delivery of humanitarian relief supplies,” it noted.
Noting that there were remaining some 600,000 Rohingya in villages in Arakan, the statement also raised concerns that these people have been facing serious challenges due to lack of access to medical and other essential services and various forms of restrictions on Rohingya ethic minority placed by the Myanmar government.
“The Myanmar government officials in Sittwe Township in Arakan are reportedly providing sanitation supplies with instructions for preventive measures to Buddhist Rakhine community, but none to Rohingya,” it said.
The rights groups also urged the Bangladesh government, and other international agencies such as the World Health Organization and UNHCR to prevent the disease and address health issues in the camp areas and beyond.
“However, more needs to be done, and additional preventive measures should be implemented for the safeguard of the highly vulnerable Rohingya refugees with urgency,” it added.
Safeguarding all the communities in Arakan
In the statement, the rights groups urged the Myanmar government to swiftly implement concrete measures to safeguard all the communities in Arakan, including the Rohingya, from COVID-19 via coordination with the international agencies.
At the same time, it also urged the Mayarman government to ensure that the military not to exploit the COVID-19 global pandemic situation against Rohingya refugees and IDPs in any form.
The statement also urged the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar to lift the internet blackouts in Arakan and camp areas in Southern Bangladesh, respectively, during this global health crisis in order to disseminate COVID-19 and other health related information.