London, UK — Following the announcement of the first confirmed cases of Covid-19 among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, BHRN calls on Bangladesh to restore internet access in refugee areas and for all relevant authorities to take further measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the densely populated refugee community. Currently, four Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have tested positive for the highly contagious virus and activists fear if it spreads further it will be devastating to the population.
The right to internet access for everyone in order to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and opinion is a fundamental human right that every state has a responsibility to ensure. Because of this Bangladesh must make sure internet access is available and the state must not restrict access, especially in this uncertain time of global pandemic,” said BHRN Executive Director, Kyaw Win.
Refugees inside of the camps in Bangladesh have said that social distancing is extremely difficult for them because people are packed so closely together. The use of shared toilets, water sites, and food distribution points makes this even harder. New procedures are necessary to ensure that refugees can safely engage in essential activities.
“The Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are extremely vulnerable to the virus at this time and it is vital that they are able to inform and protect themselves. First we ask that Bangladesh restores internet access in refugee areas so that the community can remain informed on how to protect themselves, and secondly we ask that all government and non-governmental agencies work to better protect the community at this time to prevent the virus from spiralling out of control inside the refugee camps,” said BHRN Executive Director, Kyaw Win.
While some refugees have masks, others still lack them or may not understand why they need to wear them to help prevent the spread of the virus. Similarly, some refugees may not understand why social distancing is important or how the virus spreads. For this reason, access to the internet is crucial to help educate the residents in the camps on why they need to protect themselves and how they can do it.
With proper access to information, education, and personal protective equipment like masks and gloves, the Rohingya population will be better able to protect themselves from the virus. Without these, a greater catastrophe may be more likely to come, which will devastate the already traumatised community.
Background on the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
BHRN is based in London and operates across Burma/Myanmar working for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in the country. BHRN has played a crucial role in advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.
Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
T: +44(0) 740 345 2378