OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - The help of the Church to Rohingya refugees, between Covid-19 and natural disasters

Thursday, 16 July 2020 coronavirus   caritas   rohingya   solidarity  

Sydney (Agenzia Fides) – To provide information on the prevention of Covid-19 and offer basic sanitation in Cox’s Bazar area, Bangladesh, where over one million Rohingya ethnic refugees from Myanmar have camped is the commitment of the Australian Church, active in Bangladesh with projects related to health care, human rights and the protection of creation. As reported in a note sent to Fides, the city of Cox’s Bazar, an area of very high demographic intensity, already hit by Cyclone Amphan, is experiencing a surge of contagions from Covid-19 and a strong monsoon season. In this context, the note reads, the situation of the Rohingya refugees, who arrived in Bangladesh from neighboring Myanmar in 2017 to escape brutal repression, is somewhat precarious.
In the refugee camps used for their reception, based right in Bengali city, one lives in dramatic conditions: "Refugees live in overcrowded areas and lack all the essentials: food, clean water, adequate toilets and education. Social distancing is almost impossible: data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees show that 93% of the population lives below the emergency standard of 45 square meters per person. At the same time, water, soap and masks are scarce".
To compensate for these shortcomings, Caritas Australia and its national partners have installed special areas for hand washing and the distribution of soap and masks, but also to repair toilets and water wells.
According to Eleanor Trinchera, coordinator of the Caritas Australia program for Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines, staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to respond to the emergency: "Health facilities in the camps are limited, so some medium-term reception areas have been converted to quarantine areas. Rohingyas are currently extraordinarily exposed to overcrowded conditions, natural disasters, inadequate health and nutrition. All this hinders efforts to curb the spread of the virus: we are doing our best".
Active since 1964, Caritas Australia, directly dependent on the Catholic Bishops' Conference, responds to humanitarian emergencies of about 23 countries by providing immediate assistance to affected communities and long-term reconstruction. (LF-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 16/7/2020)