COVID-19 Takes Social and Financial Toll on Cox’s Bazar Camp Communities

Publication language
Date published
31 Jan 2021
Research, reports and studies
Accountability and Participation, Accountability to affected populations (AAP), Participation, Complaints and feedback mechanisms, Multi-sector/cross-sector, COVID-19, Epidemics & pandemics, Engaging with affected populations, Impact assessment, Forced displacement and migration, Refugee Camps, Poverty

Since 2017, when some 700,000 Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMNs) fled violence and persecution and took shelter in Cox’s Bazar, the population of its 34 camps has swelled to 860,000 people. Fears of a deadly coronavirus outbreak prompted a swift government-issued lockdown in March 2020, with humanitarians having to limit operations to essential services only. As of 19 January 2021, there were 373 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among FDMNs and 10 recorded deaths.

Restrictions and subsequent disruptions to services have had a devastating effect on camp populations, who are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian aid.2 Loss of income and education, a rise in food insecurity, and breakdowns in social and interpersonal relationships have compounded existing vulnerabilities.

In October, Ground Truth Solutions (GTS) and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) with support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), conducted interviews with 315 FDMNs across 13 camps in Cox’s Bazar in order to gauge their perspectives on information, behaviour, trust, and economic impact. We found that:

  • Information needs are changing. Communities feel informed about the threat of the virus and how to protect themselves, but want more information on treatment options and vaccine development.
  • Lack of space to distance or isolate, and limited access to water and hygiene items are making it difficult for people to adhere to preventative measures, no matter how clear the messaging is.
  • The lockdown is taking a toll on social relationships, and parents are concerned about their children’s emotional well-being.
  • Many people are struggling to meet their basic needs, attributing this to loss of income, restricted access to markets due to restrictions, and physical health issues. Loss of income is the community’s main worry, followed by movement restrictions
Ground Truth Solutions, IFRC, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS)