DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – Bangladesh’s government and aid agencies began vaccinating Rohingya refugees on Tuesday as a surge in viruses increases health risks in the sprawling, cramped camps that house more than 1 million people who have fled Myanmar. Seek a refuge.
The highly transmissible Delta variant is driving a surge of infections throughout Bangladesh, with around 20,000 infections and 200 deaths in the Cox’s Bazar district, the southern border region of Myanmar, where the 34 refugee camps are located.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said a national positivity rate of around 30% suggests the spread of COVID-19 is much higher, especially given the cramped conditions and the risks many people face in the refugee camps.
The government civil surgeon’s office in Cox’s Bazar and aid agencies began the vaccination campaign in 34 camps in parallel with the national vaccination efforts in Bangladesh.
According to a statement by the international body, around 500 employees and volunteers from the Bangladeshi Red Crescent have joined the health workers for the campaign in cooperation with the UN refugee agency.
Rohingya community leaders, frontline health volunteers in the camps, and Rohingya over the age of 55 are among the first group to be vaccinated. Over 65,000 of the nearly 900,000 refugees will be vaccinated in the first cohort, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in an email to The Associated Press.
Bangladesh has reported more than 1.3 million infections since the pandemic began, including 22,897 deaths from COVID-19.
More than 700,000 Buddhist-majority Rohingya fled Myanmar in 2017 when harsh military crackdowns were launched against the ethnic group following an attack by insurgents. Other Rohingya have lived in refugee camps in Bangladesh after previous waves of persecution.
The 2017 raid included rape, murder and the setting on fire of thousands of homes and was labeled ethnic cleansing by global human rights groups and the United Nations. While Bangladesh and Myanmar have tried to arrange repatriations, the Rohingya are too fearful to return home.
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