This year, most societies and lives have been transformed by practices to slow the spread of COVID-19. Cities and countries have imposed sweeping stay-at-home orders for residents, quarantining millions of people around the world. Though critical in slowing the spread of the virus, these mitigation measures have been increasingly difficult to implement in refugee communities. The potential consequences of an outbreak within refugee camps would be catastrophic, as evidenced in the Rohingya Refugee Camps in Bangladesh.
In the majority of countries, the most prevalent public health changes practiced and advised by citizens include wearing cloth face coverings in public, social distancing (staying at least six feet from strangers), reducing public outings, washing hands often with soap and clean water, and monitoring personal health and temperature. Even as citizens begin returning to normal life, restaurants work at limited capacity, employees take their temperature before beginning shifts, and universities plan for online instruction.
Best practices have been difficult to implement in high-risk cities like Phoenix, Arizona, but are nearly impossible to accomplish in the world's largest refugee camps, where people are unable to practice even the basic precautions of social distancing. The Rohingya refugees, from Myanmar but currently residing in Bangladesh, are an example of the risk and severity of a COVID-19 outbreak within refugee camps.
Persecution: Background of Rohingya Refugees
From the Rakhine State of Myanmar, the Rohingya people are an ethnic community of largely Muslim people. The Rohingya people claim to be descendants of Arab traders throughout the region, but the Myanmar government insists that they are illegal and unrecognized immigrants. In 2017, 745,000 Rohingya people fled into Cox's Bazar of Bangladesh to escape persecution and violent atrocities committed by Myanmar. Local estimates claim that the death toll was 400 people. However, the UN estimates that approximately 6,700 people died, including over 750 children under the age of five, and has attempted to hold Myanmar responsible for the...