A New Zealand aid worker based inside the world's largest refugee camp is bracing for a massive coronavirus outbreak.

Carl Adams, working for New Zealand faith-based aid and development organisation Tearfund, says the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the area near Cox's Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh last week.

According to the United Nations (UN), there are 855,000 official Rohingya refugees – predominantly Muslims who fled persecution in Myanmar - in Cox's Bazar and Adams says they are preparing for a spread of the virus in the camp.

"Like New Zealand, we are doing everything we can to 'flatten the curve' though we fear that it is a matter of time before the virus reaches the camps," Adams says.

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Carl Adams says the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the area near Cox's Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh last week.
Carl Adams says the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the area near Cox's Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh last week.

"In a refugee camp, the options for social distancing and practising good hygiene are very limited which means the impact of the virus on refugees could be devastating."

Last week, aid workers inside Cox's Bazar moved into essential services only, focusing on lifesaving support, primary healthcare, caring for severely malnourished children and suspected Covid-19 isolation and referral.

Adams says they are also making sure they have sufficient protective equipment to keep frontline health staff safe and they're doubling down on hygiene awareness and handwashing promotion efforts in the community.

Aid agency Tearfund has launched an appeal to provide emergency relief and support to the most vulnerable refugees, providing hygiene kits and emergency food in Lebanon and funding health clinics for Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar.

The first cases of Covid-19 are emerging in refugee camps and if Kiwis don't act now, it will likely end in suffering and a large loss of life, warns aid agency Tearfund New Zealand.

An isolation tent is set up front of a health post in Cox's Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh. Photo / Supplied
An isolation tent is set up front of a health post in Cox's Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh. Photo / Supplied

Although New Zealand is in lockdown and facing ominous economic and health challenges itself, Adams urged Kiwis to do what they can to help the Rohingya refugees.

"This is an incredibly challenging time for families around the world, including Kiwis," he said.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

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"We all need to support and look out for one another. Across our global community, vulnerable people are even more at risk and this is especially true for Rohingya refugees. I would simply ask that we would not forget about them."