Restore telco services to Rohingya camps to prevent coronavirus spread: Human rights activists
Twenty five human rights activists, researchers and development professionals have called for the government to restore 4G mobile internet services in the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar to ensure free flow of information that can help prevent coronavirus transmission.
They said Bangladesh has demonstrated humanity by sheltering some 1.1 million Rohingya, but now, during this pandemic, they run a high risk of Covid-19 infection as the Rohingya refugees live in congested camps.
Whereas the population density in Bangladesh is 1,116 per square kilometer, it is 70,000 for the Rohigyas in the camps in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas, said a statement issued today.
"Though there is a compulsion of maintaining social distance, it is not enforceable properly in the Rohingya camps. Therefore, if somehow there is a Covid-19 outbreak, it will spread across the camps as well as the local communities very fast," said the statement.
It also said that despite the efforts of the government, national and international agencies, there are still shortages of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene arrangements in the camps. At this time, it is urgent to maintain disciplined ways of food distribution and allow access to service providers to the camps so that no untoward death happens due to shortage of utilities.
The activists said it is imperative to extend any cooperation to the aid agencies so they can reach out to the camps both physically and virtually to create awareness on Covid-19 to reduce the risks of the viral infection.
However, telecom service providers are facing problems in creating awareness among the Rohingya as mobile internet services have been shut down since September of last year in the Rohingya camps, the statement said.
Though some locals have shown symptoms of Covid-19, they are not being able to communicate with the concerned health authorities properly.
"We, therefore, request the Bangladesh government to restore mobile internet service immediately and help prevent the spread of Covid-19 among the Rohingya as well as the local communities," the statement added.
The rights activists and researchers also expressed concern over the fact that Malaysia and Thailand recently refused to shelter the boats of some 500 Rohingyas when those arrived in their waters.
They lauded Bangladesh for rescuing nearly 400 Rohingyas last week after they were refused by Malaysian authorities and their boat was pushed back out to sea.
They demanded that Bangladesh authorities ensure proper quarantine of them and that they don't face any discrimination thereafter.
The signatories to the statement include Dr Meghna Guhathakurta, Prof Dr Parveen Hasan, Dr Zafrulla Chowdhury, Dr Manzoor Hasan, Farah Kabir, Shaheen Anam, Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Maheen Sultan, Rehnuma Ahmed, Dr Swapan Adnan, Noor Khan Liton, Farida Akter and Shireen Huq, among others.