As COVID-19 cases are confirmed in Myanmar, displaced Rohingya face new threats that reflect continued persecution

Habiba* washes her son at an Oxfam water pump. Credit: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam
Habiba* washes her son at an Oxfam water pump. Habiba lives in Kutupalong Camp with her three children. Oxfam installed four hand pumps near to her home. Credit: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam (*name changed)

We recognize that COVID-19 could have devastating impacts on people across the country, with so many in Myanmar continuing to live in poverty with limited access to health care and reliant on informal employment.

Economic inequalities are set to deepen and women, who are often acting as the primary caregivers and in some of the most insecure forms of employment, will likely be disproportionately affected.

Shim*, 12, holds an Oxfam food parcel she received from a distribution at Kutupalong Camp, Bangladesh. Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam
Shim*, 12, holds an Oxfam food parcel she received from a distribution at Kutupalong Camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

Please send doctors

“Please send good doctors to the camps with enough medicine because here in the camps people here are losing their lives day by day. The camps make it very easy for people to contract diseases, but difficult to get medical treatment. The doctors do not see the patients and do not help us. And the patients are not receiving the right medicine for the illnesses they suffer.” — Rohingya woman, 35 years old, displaced and living in confined camps in central Rakhine, Myanmar

Oxfam is urgently scaling up humanitarian work

This is why as Oxfam we are urgently scaling up our humanitarian efforts in the Rohingya camps in Myanmar and the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where we reach a combined total of 465,000 displaced people.

Health crisis, human rights crisis

None of these issues — from the lack of protection, to the lack of essential services, to the lack of information — are new. Rohingya communities have been faced with an entirely precarious existence for years, struggling to access the very basics to survive. However, the threat of COVID-19 is putting the human rights crisis faced by Rohingya living in camps on both sides of the border into sharper focus. It starkly shows how equal rights are central to ensuring each human life is valued and protected, whether it’s amid a pandemic or not.

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Oxfam International

Oxfam International

Oxfam is a world-wide development organization that mobilizes the power of people against poverty.