Since March 2020, Bangladesh has been experiencing multiple stages of COVID-19 pandemic which is impacting the health sector and the overall Bangladesh economy.
The pandemic has unsettled Bangladesh’s decade-long macroeconomic stability, while gradually undermining years of steady progress in poverty reduction in Bangladesh. At the micro level, the COVID-19 containment measures, especially lockdowns, have intensified the needs of vulnerable groups, including informal and returning overseas migrant workers.
Despite the multi-layered interventions initiated by the Government and the economic rebound in the later part of 2020, Bangladesh overall economic recovery remains slow particularly due the second wave of COVID-19 infections in the country which resurfaced in mid-March of 2021, necessitating another series of strict nationwide lockdowns starting from 05 April 2021.
The spike in the COVID-19 caseloads and deaths is overwhelming the health sector with shortage in ICU facilities and challenging the overall health service delivery.
Mass vaccination was initiated in early February 2021 with COVIDSHIELD (Oxford- Astrazeneca) vaccine from the Serum Institute in India, but the COVID-19 vaccination program faced initial challenges with vaccine shortages.
Moreover, vaccine hesitancy among the Bangladeshi population also impacted the initial vaccination campaign.
The global support from the international community (through vaccine donations and vaccine allocation from the COVAX facility) helped in addressing the vaccine shortages, enabling the vaccination program to progress in line with the vaccination plan for Bangladesh. These global joint efforts have facilitated the delivery of over 13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine which has been administered in Bangladesh since February 2021.
Humanitarian activities in Cox’s Bazar which host over 884,000 Rohingya population were significantly downscaled from April 2020, following the government directive on nationwide movement restrictions. These lockdowns and humanitarian access restrictions were gradually lifted from July 2020 following several revisions of the “essential intervention list”, which allowed the resumption of self-reliance activities. However, another phase of strict lockdown since April 2021 moved the humanitarian access issue back to a similar situation during the same period in 2020. The absence of non-essential services, which is restricted in the refugee camp settings is impacting on protection needs and livelihoods of the Rohingya community, including their access to basic services, and awareness information.