Educo and Childfund Korea have launched a coronavirus emergency response in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh to help protect children in refugee camps and host communities hard hit by the lockdown and school closures
Coinciding with the World Refugee Week, child rights organization, Educo says, children living in the world’s largest refugee camp now face heightened risk of various forms of violence including child trafficking, child labour and child marriage given amid worsening socio-economic conditions brought about by the pandemic.
Matiur Rahaman, Educo Cox’s Bazar emergency response Head of Mission says, “We need to understand that Rohingya children in the refugee community were already facing various forms of violence and safety risks due to the desperate living conditions in the camps. It is appalling that the pandemic has created an even bigger crisis within an existing crisis for Rohingya children.”
Rahaman adds, “Rohingya children are now cut off from the outside world as schools are still shut down, and many of them do not have access to learning alternatives. We know from experience that children are likely to suffer from violence in their homes and communities as families face extremely uncertain times. It is difficult to imagine this level of isolation for children who are already living in remote camps.”
Mosharoffa, 12, a refugee living in Cox’s Bazar, shares how the new coronavirus is changing the way they live. “Because of the coronavirus, there is no peace in the block, only fear. I can't go out anywhere, the market is closed, so there is no fish curry, and I can't eat any good food even if I want to. I am afraid that if I go to the doctor, I might be infected by a person with coronavirus.”
Over 1,500 coronavirus cases have been reported amongst Cox’s Bazar host population, which is also considered one of the poorest areas in Bangladesh. In the refugee camps, at least 38 people have already been infected by the coronavirus. Educo says that these are conservative figures, highlighting that the cases could be much higher. The organization added that accurate information about the illness and measures to prevent its spread is failing to reach many people in the camps.
“Particularly in cramped spaces such as refugee camps, it is only a matter of time before we see a larger outbreak. There is an acute need for hygiene kits and personal protective equipment such as facemasks, disinfectants, and hygiene kits to prevent children from getting infected. We know that many people here do not have access to reliable information, and this is what we need to address urgently,” Rahaman explained.
Educo’s COVID-19 emergency response, funded by Childfund Korea, will focus on distribution of hygiene kits to 2,000 households in the refugee camps, provision of medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) for health facilities and isolation wards in the secondary health facilities, provision of need-based mental health and psychological support to vulnerable children and adolescents, and unconditional cash support to the host communities in Cox’s Bazar district.
To protect children and adolescents from further safety risks, Educo will implement an information drive to disseminate COVID-19 prevention and response information and child protection messages.
Educo is a global development NGO focused on education and child protection which works in 13 countries carrying out projects which include participation from more than 400,000 children and more than 200,000 adults. Prior to the coronavirus crisis, Educo and Childfund Korea have been working in Cox’s Bazar to help Rohingya refugees since 2018.