The Cox’s Bazar district on Bangladesh's southeast coast has hosted Rohingya refugees fleeing targeted violence in neighbouring Myanmar's Rakhine state since 1978. The latest campaign of violence, which began in late August 2017, has provoked an unprecedented exodus.
Before August 2017, we had one project in Cox’s Bazar and one in Kamrangirchar, a slum area of the capital, Dhaka. After more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled violence in Myanmar from August 2017, we launched additional emergency projects.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are responding to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh.
In Cox’s Bazar, the largest refugee camp in the world, MSF manages 10 hospitals and general health centres. Our inpatient and outpatient services include emergency and intensive care, paediatrics, as well as obstetrics and sexual and reproductive healthcare. We also treat victims of sexual violence and patients with non-communicable diseases. Water and sanitation activities are an important part of our efforts to stop the spread of disease and include water trucking and the installation of pumps, wells and latrines.
We run an occupational health programme for people living in the Kamrangirchar slum area of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka. Many of them work in small factories where they are exposed, without protection, to dangerous machinery and substances. Our teams conducted 10,500 occupational health consultations for factory workers in 2019. We also started running a new mobile health clinic for tannery workers.
Since 25 August 2017, we've treated more than a hundred survivors of sexual violence at our sexual and reproductive health unit in Kutupalong, Cox's Bazar. We also give medical and psychological support to victims of sexual violence and intimate partner violence in Kamrangirchar, a slum area in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.
We offer reproductive healthcare to adolescent girls in Kamrangirchar. Our services include antenatal consultations and assisting deliveries. People of all ages benefit from our family planning sessions. In Cox’s Bazar, our staff assisted 2,670 births in 2019.
We're supporting government initiatives to expand routine vaccination in the camps. Staff at all our facilities now have the capacity to administer immunisation for measles and rubella, oral polio and tetanus according to national protocols.
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Our activities in 2020 in Bangladesh
Data and information from the International Activity Report 2020.
Rohingya refugees and vulnerable communities in urban slums remain the focus of our projects in the country.
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.
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, 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.