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COVID-19 Explained: Different and Unequal (Edition #5, 27th April 2020)

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How COVID-19 affects different sex, age, ability and populations differently

This edition of COVID-19 Explained explores the differences in attitudes, knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 between key demographic groups. This data was gathered several weeks after the beginning of the ongoing COVID-19 awareness campaigns. For this edition, 42 interviews with women, girls, boys and men from Rohingya and host communities were conducted, including 9 interviews with people with disabilities, to gain a better understanding of how these dimensions result in different experience and impacts related to COVID-19 preparedness. It is hoped that this will help support nuanced communication strategies and programmatic consideration of affected populations’ ages, genders, population groups and abilities. Based on this consultation, it is clear that everyone has been impacted significantly in different ways that will continue to come into focus as the response protracts.

Key Findings

  • There are significant differences in terms of needs, access to information and impact of the COVID-19 response on different demographic, age, and ability groups among Rohingya and host community.

  • Host communities report high levels of knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 but feel excluded from assistance. There are growing tensions between them and the Rohingya population as a result of the economic impacts of the COVID-19.

  • Overall, Rohingya report good awareness of the main COVID-19 messages on transmission prevention but also desire more information and understanding of COVID-19 including treatment options. Rohingya adolescents and adult men display the best knowledge and understanding of the main COVID-19 messages of all Rohingya groups interviewed. There is still frustration about the feasibility of following some of the guidance (e.g. applying physical distancing in this context).

  • Among Rohingya, older women, adult women, and people with disabilities report concerningly low access to information about COVID-19. Microphones, Tomtoms and other messaging taking place in camps is somewhat effective but limited in reach to people with less access to public spaces, including women, older people, and people with disabilities.

  • There is inadequate understanding of what treatments exist for COVID-19 and how these will help people. Only a minority of people, across demographics, had misconceptions or false ideas about treatments, despite many reporting to have heard various rumours about treatments. Generally, there was a belief that there is no treatments across all groups. This undermines reasons to seek assistance in people’s understanding of COVID-19.

  • Both Rohingya and host community are now reporting that they are more willing to go into isolation and seek treatment if infected. This is possibly due to the spread of the epidemic into Bangladesh and a result of the information dissemination campaigns. However, whether this reflects actual willingness to report symptomsis unclear. Rohingya participants are still consistently raising concerns of poor treatment and reduced provision of medical services persist. These concerns remain unaddressed and could have a major impact on their compliance with containment measures.

  • Many participants across host and Rohingya communities express a willingness to isolate as long as there is gender segregation at the facilities and people of different religions are grouped together.

  • Access to livelihood and employment opportunities as a result of the lockdown is having significant, negative impacts on food security and access to medical services for host community and Rohingya. Access to income was the most commonly reported concern of those consulted across all population and demographic groups.
    The disruptions on local economies and income generating activities have reportedly meant that Rohingya are unable to purchase food and meet their daily needs more than already was the case. For Rohingya, lower access to healthcare was also reported due to mobility restrictions and a decrease in earning to pay for private care.

International Organization for Migration
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