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In the Shadows of the Pandemic: The Gendered Impact of COVID-19 On Rohingya and Host Communities (October 2020)

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Since the onset of global COVID-19 pandemic in December, Bangladesh has been in a state of high alert. The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Bangladesh was recorded on 8 March 2020. By 26 March, containment measures were implemented, impacting an already vulnerable population. As of 13 September there have been 337,520 total cases, with 4,401 in Cox’s Bazar and 179 across all 34 refugee camps.1 However, it is highly likely that these low case numbers are more indicative of negligible testing than of the actual spread of the virus; the true incidence of the disease is unknown.2 COVID-19 and the accompanying containment measures have had a significant impact on women, girls, men and boys, including female sex workers, transgender persons and people with disabilities, across all camps, exacerbating existing conditions, such as overcrowding, movement across hilly terrain, uneven access to a limited number of WASH and health facilities and inadequate access to protection and hygiene resources. This has hindered the ability of refugees to take the necessary preventive measures to limit infections. The host community faces similar difficulties, and, moreover, the containment measures had an adverse economic impact on both host and refugee communities.

This Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) builds on the secondary data analysis done in May 2020 by the Gender Hub, UN Women, CARE and OXFAM. This RGA aims to answer the following research questions:

  • How has COVID-19 impacted women, girls, men and boys and key vulnerable and marginalised groups’ ability to meet their basic needs and entitlements?

  • What achievements made on gender equality and the empowerment of women, girls and LGBTQ+ groups are now at risk of being undone by COVID-19?

  • What new or heightened protection and safety risks are arising from COVID-19?

  • How can women, girls, men and boys, and key vulnerable and marginalised groups participate and lead in the COVID-19 response?

The research was conducted using primary data collected in Rohingya and host communities in Cox’s Bazar between 15 June and 9 July 2020 to understand the impact COVID-19 has had on age, gender and other social characteristics, and to analyse how the socio-cultural context helps or hinders people’s ability to cope with the crisis. The purpose is to generate evidence to support the design of gender-responsive intervention/strategies for the COVID-19 response in Cox’s Bazar that can be used for advocacy and fundraising purposes.