Urgent steps needed against COVID-19 in IDP camps – HRW

31 March 2020
Urgent steps needed against COVID-19 in IDP camps – HRW
Internally displaced Kachin ethnic people sit inside a temporary refugee camp at Tan Phae village Roman Catholic church in Myitkyina, Kachin State, northern Myanmar. Photo: Seng Mai/EPA

The Myanmar government should take urgent steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission among the estimated 350,000 people displaced by conflict and violence across the country, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Overcrowding, a mobile internet shutdown, blocks on humanitarian aid, and movement restrictions have left displaced communities in Rakhine, Kachin, Shan, Chin, and Karen States especially vulnerable to a virus outbreak, it said.

While concerns have been raised about Myanmar’s capacity to manage the coronavirus given its healthcare infrastructure, the country’s displaced populations face even greater risks. Most are trapped in dangerously overcrowded camps with severely substandard health care and inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, and other essential services. Many displaced people have underlying medical conditions and chronic diseases, putting them at high risk of suffering serious effects from the virus.

State media announced the government was drafting a COVID-19 response plan for internally displaced persons (IDPs), but humanitarian workers told Human Rights Watch they had not been consulted on the draft or given guidance about responding to a potential spread.