First Cases Confirmed Among Rohingya in Kutupalong, Bangladesh Refugee Camp
(Portland, OR) MAY 19, 2020—With the first cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Bangladesh, the largest refugee camp in the world, Portland-based nonprofit Medical Teams International is responding to the urgent need by opening a 50-bed isolation and treatment center in partnership with Food for the Hungry and UNHCR. The organization is calling for donations to help support this vital work to contain the virus and keep it from spreading.
Kutupalong’s health facilities are already crowded and overwhelmed with an average of 100,000 people per square mile. To compare, Manhattan – one of the epicenters of the outbreak in the U.S. – has a population density of nearly 67,000 people per square mile. Isolation and treatment centers are vital to contain COVID-19 in this highly populous and under-resourced refugee camp.
“It’s very difficult to ensure social distancing in a refugee camp, especially the largest one in the world where the community is so densely populated,” said Dr. Robert Lukwata, Medical Teams Bangladesh Program Director of Health. “Even as you move in the community, on the road you find people are close to each other. That has been one of the challenges in the Rohingya camps.”
The clinic is equipped with a designated area for PPE dressing, nurse stations, medical supply storage, a recovery center, a morgue, a sterilization area, and an oxygenator for every bed. One of six isolation treatment centers being established within the refugee camp region, Medical Teams’ clinic will serve mild to moderate cases initially and severe cases as capacity allows. If patients develop severe to critical symptoms, staff will refer them to higher level medical facilities.
In addition to the 50-bed isolation treatment center, which has been converted from an existing clinic, Medical Teams received three months’ worth of treatment medicines from UNHCR, along with additional critical supplies such as PPE. Staff doctors and nurses are receiving training on proper protocols and techniques to help prevent spread of the disease with technical support from Medical Teams, WHO and Ministry of Health in Cox’s Bazar, where the refugee camp is situated.
As part of Medical Teams’ ongoing COVID-19 response, its trained Community Health Workers (CHWs) are visiting households and sharing messaging on appropriate hygiene and social distancing. Since cell phone communications and internet access have been shut down in the camp, household visits by CHWs and signage in the community are the only way to communicate. CHWs will also engage in contact tracing support, identification of mild and moderate cases to facilitate home-based care and medication support by health care workers, and referral of severe cases to health facilities.
To make a donation to support Medical Teams’ urgent COVID-19 response in Bangladesh, visit medicalteams.org.
About Medical Teams in Bangladesh
Medical Teams International, in partnership with Food for the Hungry (FH), has been operating in Bangladesh to address the influx of Rohingya Refugees into Cox’s Bazar since August 2017, where over 860,000 refugees now reside. Together, Medical Teams and FH formed the Joint Rohingya Response Programme (JRRP). Since the program started at the end of 2017, it has sought to address the overall health and rehabilitation of affected communities in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district.
About Medical Teams International
Founded in 1979, Medical Teams International provides life-saving medical care for people in crisis, such as survivors of natural disasters and refugees. We care for the whole person— physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Daring to love like Jesus, we serve all people—regardless of religion, nationality, sex or race. Because every person—no matter where they are or how desperate their situation—matters. Learn more at medicalteams.org and on social media using @medicalteams. For more information and donations for Medical Teams’ work on COVID-19, please visit https://www.medicalteams.org/how-we-heal/natural-disasters/covid-19-resp…