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COVID-19 vaccinations begin in Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee camps

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COVID-19 vaccinations begin in Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee camps

11 August 2021
Mohammed Shofi, 64 years old, receives the first dose of his COVID-19 vaccination. He was the first Rohingya refugee to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in the Cox's Bazar camps in Bangladesh.

Yesterday in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, over 4,000 Rohingya refugees received their first COVID-19 vaccine, as part of a national vaccination drive to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

Rohingya refugees eligible for vaccination in the first cohort include some 48,000 individuals over 55 years of age. The drive will continue until 17 August.

UNHCR welcomes the commencement of the vaccination of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, in line with national authorities’ broader public health efforts. Equitable inclusion of Rohingya refugees in allocation of vaccines is critical to curbing the spread of the ongoing pandemic.

Johannes Van Der Klaauw, UNHCR’s Representative in Bangladesh emphasized, “The Rohingya refugee and host community volunteers have an essential frontline role in containing the spread of COVID-19 in the camps. The first step in fully protecting communities; however, is through the rollout of vaccination. We are grateful to the Government of Bangladesh for having included Rohingya refugees in the vaccination campaign.”

The vaccination drive for Rohingya refugees is being led by the Bangladesh authorities with technical support from the UN Refugee Agency, the World Health Organization and other humanitarian partners. 

The fight against the pandemic has been led by thousands of refugee and host community volunteers, who have worked since 2020 on informing refugees about health and hygiene, monitoring any signs of illness, and connecting the refugee community with critical health services. While the threat of COVID-19 remains critical, their efforts have helped to prevent and curb outbreaks and have saved lives. 

The vaccinations follow the devastating monsoon rains that hit Cox’s Bazar District over the past weeks, causing flash floods and landslides which killed eight Rohingya refugees and 15 Bangladeshis in the host communities. Almost 25,000 refugees were displaced due to landslides, flooding, wind and storms. Thousands of facilities have been damaged including primary health clinics, distribution points and latrines. Access was hindered due to damage to roads, pathways and bridges.

UNHCR’s Emergency Response Teams, and partners, refugee and host community volunteers were deployed to assess the damage, to provide support to families forced to relocate, to begin immediate repairs of shelters and other site improvements and to ensure access to essential services for all. While the weather has improved over the last few days, the monsoon season will continue for another couple of months followed by the cyclone season.

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