COVID-19 Outbreak: Cox's Bazar Rapid Gender Analysis (May 2020)
The Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had a devastating impact and is expected to have lasting consequences globally. As of 4 May 2020, 10,143 cases have been confirmed in Bangladesh. To date, only 21 cases have been identified in Cox’s Bazar district, which is home to over 850,000 Rohingya refugees and extremely vulnerable host communities. Although no positive COVID-19 cases have been reported in the camps, this is likely to change soon. The conditions in the camps, including overcrowding, limited sanitation facilities and an overburdened health system, have made the COVID-19 preparedness and response plan uniquely complex. An inability to fully meet basic needs, low levels of nutrition and limited access to health care may have had a damaging impact on the immunity levels of Rohingya refugees, making them more vulnerable to the virus.
A COVID-19 outbreak in the refugee camps and neighbouring communities would disproportionately affect women and girls and other vulnerable populations. Gender norms and roles in both refugee and host communities are likely to limit the ability of women and girls to protect themselves from the virus, and, if not adequately taken into account, they will have a significant impact on prevention and response efforts. Special attention to reduce risks must be accorded to older women, women with existing medical conditions and to pregnant women with a lower immunity status.