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COVID-19 Explained: Essentially Abandoned: Essential Service Restrictions Go into Effect (Edition #2, 2nd April 2020)

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This past week saw a rapid implementation of guidelines that involved the cessation of all nonessential humanitarian services and activities. This has meant a massive and rapid reduction in the number of humanitarian staff and volunteers travelling to the camps for various purposes and a scale back of other services. This was intended to reduce the risk of transmission between humanitarians and the camp population, but has not been understood by most Rohingya in the camps, who report to feeling abandoned by humanitarian responders. This has created the impression that even essential services might be stopped and the reduction of activities was not out of concern for the camp population but out of fear that humanitarians themselves may contract the virus from the Rohingya since the conditions in the camp are perceived to be poor and conducive to disease.

Alongside this, there are initial but concerning reports of rapidly deteriorating security dynamics within the camps between Rohingya and host communities. One consultation from last week revealed a tube well had been destroyed by the host community because it was near the edge of the camp and the host community did not want Rohingya coming close. Other discussions revealed that host communities were urging Rohingya to “close themselves within the camp” because they will spread diseases. Rohingya seem to have also been increasingly treated poorly by humanitarian volunteers and staff who see the Rohingya as posing a risk to themselves and host communities. Others report that host communities have begun to demand money and relief because of the risk they pose related to COVID-19 epidemics.

Edition 2 of COVID-Explained focuses on Rohingya perception of the recent withdrawal of non-essential humanitarian staff and activities in the camps, enforced to decrease their potential exposure to COVID-19, and their views on what services are essential and non-essential. It also includes information on major events reported by Rohingya about last week, what Rohingya want us to know, and what questions they have for humanitarians.

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