Published:  02:35 PM, 20 May 2020

50 cyclone shelters ready in Cox's Bazar: IOM

50 cyclone shelters ready in Cox's Bazar: IOM

Some 50 multipurpose cyclone shelters have been prepared and 256 cyclone preparation programme volunteer units provided cyclone early warning system messages to the community in Rohingya camp as cyclone Amphan is unlikely to hit Cox's Bazar district.

International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said they remain on standby to provide emergency support in the wake of damage to be caused by Amphan.

To reduce the risk of landslides within the Rohingya settlements during cyclone and monsoon season, Site Maintenance and Engineering Project - SMEP – a joint IOM, UNHCR and WFP initiative – identified and stabilised potential risk areas using bamboo and concrete walls.

To prepare and respond to Cyclone Amphan in Cox’s Bazar, 21 Union Disaster Management Committees were activated with support from IOM Bangladesh's Disaster Risk Reduction unit in Ukhiya, Teknaf, Ramu and Moheshkhali upazilas, according to IOM.

Just days after the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the Rohingya settlements of Cox’s Bazar, approximately 1.2 million Rohingyas and host community members now face the threat of Cyclone – a super cyclonic storm with maximum sustained winds of 265 kilometres per hour.

“We’re extremely concerned that there’ll be a new humanitarian crisis in the district if a cyclone hits while we try to contain the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Manuel Pereira, Deputy Chief of Mission for IOM Bangladesh.

“Communities are already vulnerable to the devastating health crisis and we know that if people are forced to seek communal shelter, they’ll be unable to maintain physical distancing and run the risk of contracting or transmitting the virus.”

IOM teams are using what they learned responding to Cyclone Bulbul in November 2019, to prepare for the new cyclone season, training first responders on early warning mechanisms and response activities, distributing and prepositioning supplies, renovating community cyclone shelters, reinforcing critical infrastructure, repairing drainage systems, enhancing individual shelter durability and raising awareness throughout the community.

COVID-19 Response Update

According to government officials, five cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the Rohingya population at Cox’s Bazar (based on 140 tests) as of May 18.

There have been 23,870 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 349 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths in Bangladesh, according to Bangladesh government statistics.

While large strides have been made to increase testing, strict limitations remain.

IOM staff are now engaged in a multifaceted response to contain the spread of COVID-19 while coordinating a comprehensive cyclone preparedness effort – alerting the community, reinforcing critical infrastructure and prepositioning emergency items before the cyclone makes landfall.

IOM is constructing new a 250-bed capacity Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Isolation and Treatment Centre (SARI ITC) which will contribute to the larger target agreed upon by the lead actors of the humanitarian community, IOM, UNICEF and UNHCR.   

Triage areas in the 35 primary care facilities IOM supports along with three isolation and treatment centres, and a 93-unit contact-tracing quarantine centre large enough to accommodate 465 is nearing completion.

IOM is also setting up much needed oxygen provisions as a common pipeline service for treatment facilities supporting both its own and partners.

Through 24-hour hotlines and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology, IOM continues to respond despite operational challenges, providing life-saving information while dispelling harmful rumours and misinformation having reached more than 20,000 calls over the last weeks.

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