Nearly a million Rohingya refugees live in the refugee camps that sprang up overnight in 2017 in south-eastern Bangladesh around Cox’s Bazar when Myanmar drove the Muslim minority from their homes in northern Rakhine State. Several generations of large families share one-room flimsy shelters made of bamboo and woven leaves. The population density is said to be more than double that of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, itself the most densely populated city in the world.
Unfortunately, when COVID-19 hit the world, these camps looked like the ideal place for the pandemic to spread. Many feared that overcrowding in the camps, no possibility of physical distancing, poor infrastructure and Bangladesh’s fragile health system, could combine to spell disaster.
UN Global Pulse worked with health professionals from WHO and experts at UNHCR, UN OCHA, Durham University and IBM/MIT AI lab to model the impact of public health interventions in the Cox’s Bazar settlement in Bangladesh.