Originally published in careevaluations.org on 7 May 2020
As of 4 May 2020, 10,143 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Bangladesh. To date, only 21 cases have been identified in Cox’s Bazar district, which is home to over 850,000 Rohingya refugees and extremely vulnerable host communities. Although no positive COVID-19 cases have been reported in the camps, this is likely to change soon. The conditions in the camps, including overcrowding, limited sanitation facilities and overburdened health system, have made the COVID-19 situation uniquely complex.
A COVID-19 outbreak in the refugee camps and neighboring communities will disproportionately affect women and girls and other vulnerable populations. Gender norms in both refugee and host communities limit women’s and girls’ ability to protect themselves from the virus and have a significant impact on prevention and response efforts. Refugees are reporting “rapidly deteriorating security dynamics within the camps between Rohingya and host communities” stemming from fears around COVID-19.
Women are already being blamed for COVID-19, resulting in a rollback of women’s rights, including mobility, access to services and information. Men, women, and community leaders in are blaming women’s “dishonorable” behavior as the cause of COVID, causing a backlash against women’s rights. Women are experiencing more behavior policing, mobility restrictions, and Gender Based Violence.