KUTUPALONG: Bangladesh began vaccinating Rohingya refugees living in congested camps on Tuesday as the impoverished South Asian nation battles a record surge in coronavirus cases, authorities said.
Health officials say 2,600 Covid-19 cases and 29 deaths have been recorded in camps that are home to some 850,000 Rohingya, but many experts say this is likely a huge understatement.
In the initial inoculation phase, some 48,000 refugees over the age of 55 will receive injections of Sinopharm made in China in the next three days, local health chief Mahbubur Rahman told AFP.
Authorities said they have carried out a “massive vaccination awareness campaign” in the camps with volunteers going door-to-door to inform refugees about the importance of getting punctured.
Shams ud Douza, deputy commissioner for refugees from Bangladesh, told AFP that a vaccination campaign would also begin this week for the 18,000 Rohingya controversially relocated to an island in the Bay of Bengal.
Bangladesh has been hit by a large increase in cases in recent months and much of the country of 169 million people is under lockdown, including Rohingya camps.
The coronavirus has killed nearly 23,000 people and infected an estimated 1.4 million in Bangladesh, the majority in recent months. About 98 percent of new infections come from the more transmissible Delta variant that was first detected in neighboring India.
“Vaccination of all age groups is the only effective way to prevent the virus from spreading further among the Rohingya population in the camps,” said Romain Briey, director of the medical charity MSF in Bangladesh.
Most Rohingya in Bangladesh fled a security forces offensive in neighboring Myanmar in 2017, and four years later there is little prospect of their return home.
Hrusikesh Harichandan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the Rohingya “lived in the shadow of the global vaccine divide.”
“Vaccines are vital for families to live with dignity because staying home is very difficult for people in these crowded camps and most still have limited access to water and sanitation facilities, increasing the risks of Covid-19. “.