Since March 2021, Bangladesh has been experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. After months of gradual decrease, cases have increased by 350% in March compared to the previous month. Deaths also climbed to 496 from 281 in February. In response to the new COVID-19 wave, the government has imposed new regulations and movement restrictions on the public.
The national vaccination campaign is facing some challenges due to a recent temporary halt on exports by the Indian government of the COVIDShield, the OxfordAstrazeneca vaccine produced at Serum Institute of India.
As of 31 March, the health authorities have administered more than five million first doses of the vaccine.
Following the national trend, COVID-19 cases in Cox’s Bazar are increasing, especially among the host community, with Cox’s Bazar being one of the 31 most affected zones in the country. While vaccination campaigns for international humanitarian workers have started in Cox’s Bazar, campaigns for the Rohingya refugees are planned to start in the coming weeks. However, plans are expected to face some setbacks due to the massive fire in camps 8E, 8W, 9, and 10 which destroyed several vaccination points.
A massive fire broke out on 22 March in the Kutupalong mega camp, affecting camps 8E, 8W, 9, and 10. The fire left thousands of people temporarily displaced after damaging more than 10,000 shelters. The fire also destroyed shops, nutrition and distribution centers, learning centers, and health and WASH infrastructure. The impact of the fire is covered by the findings from the Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) Rapid Joint Needs Assessment conducted immediately following the fire.
The concern over financial burden has increased among the Rohingya community in the first two months of 2021.
Despite continued humanitarian assistance to refugee households largely at the same scale prior to COVID-19, vulnerability of the Rohingya refugees, including economic vulnerability, and adoption of high risks coping mechanisms, has increased and is likely to be increasing their financial concerns.
Schools and other learning facilities continue to be closed. A recent assessment of the Education Sector for the Rohingya and the host communities by REACHhighlights the many challenges in the availability and accessibility of distance learning for students from both communities.
Lack of electricity, internet, and technological devices contributes to the inability of students to access quality education. However, financial constraints remain one of the most reported challenges for the host community. For the refugee community, existing problems and barriers before the pandemic add further challenges for students.
Protection risks remain high, as result of the massive fire which damaged a substantial number of child and women-friendly spaces in the camps, and left many women and children sleeping in unsafe areas and some children unaccompanied. The continued school closures also expose children to increasing risks such as child labor, child marriage, kidnapping, and human trafficking.