Devastating fire tears through Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh
March 23, 2021—A massive fire broke out on March 22 in the world's largest refugee camp, in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, where around 900,000 Rohingya people are living. According to initial estimates from the United Nations, 15 people have lost their lives in the blaze, 560 people have been injured, and some 45,000 people have been displaced. MSF’s Balukhali clinic was completely destroyed by the flames. Fortunately, all patients and staff were evacuated from the clinic before the fire intensified. So far, MSF has treated 11 people who were wounded as a result of the fire in Kutupalong hospital and the hospital on the hill. It is still not clear how many shelters, health care facilities, and other humanitarian infrastructure have been destroyed. This is a devastating blow to the Rohingya community, who have already endured years of hardship in Bangladesh. Read more >
How MSF is fighting COVID-19 in Bangladesh
MSF has created isolation wards in all our medical facilities in Cox’s Bazar. All MSF health facilities maintain triage and screening for respiratory tract symptoms and enforce strict infection prevention measures, while returning as far as possible to regular activities. Our teams are treating a number of patients with COVID-19, as well as monitoring patients with suspected COVID-19.
Our focus is on treating all of our patients and ensuring we can give the best possible quality of care for COVID-19 and other medical problems, as well as continuing to work together with the Bangladeshi authorities, WHO, and other health actors to limit the spread of the virus.
We are seeing the secondary impacts of the sustained reduction in access to health care and the de-prioritisation of community-based health care and social support in the camps. MSF has seen an increase in severity of non-COVID-19-related conditions, including increased deaths. Our teams are also carrying out health promotion activities in the camps. In Kamrangirchar urban project, MSF has reduced regular activities to focus resources on our main clinic, where we continue to provide sexual and reproductive health services, care for victims of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as health promotion for COVID-19. We are also supporting the local health facilities with IPC training.
Learn more about how we are responding to the coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues to respond to the medical and humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees and vulnerable Bangladeshi communities, and to address gaps in health care in Dhaka’s Kamrangirchar slum.
MSF remains one of the main providers of medical humanitarian assistance to the stateless Rohingya, approximately one million of whom live in the largest refugee camp in the world, in Cox’s Bazar. More than two years since the initial emergency, people still live in the same overcrowded and basic bamboo shelters, entirely dependent on aid and with little hope for the future. Outbreaks of waterborne and vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, acute watery diarrhea and diphtheria, pose a serious ongoing threat.
Throughout 2019, MSF teams focused on improving the quality and reach of our health care, working closely with the refugee community to improve our understanding of their needs and build trust in our services. This resulted in a significant increase in the number of people, especially women, attending our facilities. More women are now giving birth in our maternity units, with 2,670 births across all our facilities in Cox’s Bazar.
We began to adjust our activities to ensure longer-term sustainability and handed over a number of facilities to local organizations, including an extensive network using solar energy to power the supply of clean drinking water. By the end of 2019, we were running three hospitals, three general health centers, one health post, two specialized clinics and four outbreak response facilities. These provide a range of inpatient and outpatient services, including emergency and intensive care, pediatrics, obstetrics, sexual and reproductive health care, as well as treatment for victims of sexual violence, and patients with non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. Our teams celebrated the 10th anniversary of Kutupalong field hospital, which has served Rohingya refugees and the local Bangladeshi community since it opened in 2009. Learn how you can best help in Bangladesh and other countries.
Rohingya refugees struggle with unemployment, dire living conditions and a sense of hopelessness, coupled with traumatic memories; we have seen an increasing number of people with mental health problems in our facilities. We have expanded our mental health services in response to the evolving needs, and more people are attending our individual and group counselling sessions. In Cox’s Bazar, MSF remains the largest provider of specialized psychiatric care for Rohingya refugees and local Bangladeshis suffering from mental disorders such as psychosis, anxiety and epilepsy. Please donate to support our work in Bangladesh and other countries around the world now.
MSF teams in Kamrangirchar, a slum area in Dhaka near hundreds of factories, continue to run a unique occupational health program. We deliver medical care tailored to the needs of the people who work in hazardous conditions. In 2019, we conducted 10,500 occupational health consultations for factory workers and started a new mobile health clinic specifically for tannery workers. We also run sexual and reproductive health services for girls and women. MSF teams carried out almost 11,500 antenatal consultations and assisted at 700 births in 2019. We continue to offer comprehensive treatment for victims of sexual and intimate partner violence, with integrated mental health support.