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Have you ever walked a mile in their shoes? Rohingya patients report on health services since the pandemic began (Edition 6, 31st May 2020 )

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Despite widespread documentation of Rohingya dissatisfaction with available health services, problems continue to be reported in the relationship of trust between affected communities and humanitarians. Since mid-March, community-based research reflected in the COVID-19 Explained series has uncovered a wide-spread and highly concerning rumour that anyone who enters a camp health facility with COVID-19 symptoms will be killed as the only way to contain the virus. This rumour, combined with the common perception that health facilities do not have the capacity to provide adequate health care, have likely contributed to the 50% drop in the overall medical-consultation rate across the camps over the past six weeks (EWARS 03/05/2020). Often, these experiences are attributed to misperceptions of healthcare or rumours instead of actual reports and accounts of people’s interactions with medical professionals or experiences at clinics. Throughout COVID-19 Consultations, Rohingya have repeatedly pointed to their perceived and actual experiences of treatment within and at health facilities in the camps as a major source of distrust. Rather than engage in larger questions about the perception of medicine, treatment or healthcare, this edition focuses on people’s recent reported experiences and interactions with humanitarian health care staff since the pandemic began and explores how they came to their conclusions about their experiences. In light of the confirmed outbreak in the camps, it is increasingly important to explore the variables that shape Rohingya’s health seeking behaviour and implement solutions where trust is being harmed. Given that among the first confirmed cases, people have attempted to escape, hide, and generally evade healthcare practitioners, there is clearly still room for all parties to improve in trust through the provision of better services – not simply through marketing strategies.

This report follows on from the findings of past COVID-19 Explained Editions and Health Behaviours and COVID-19. For this edition, 56 key informants were requested to provide detailed accounts of their recent experiences of medical consultations and treatments. These experiences were analysed and their findings presented here according to the same qualitative data analysis methods and standards as other COVID-19 Explained editions. Additionally, six illustrated story boards were developed from the interviews and developed separately as an illustrated companion report. It is the hoped that in response to the question “what do these stories mean,” we can find answers by diving deeper into the singular stories and experiences of the people we serve.

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