As the COVID 19 pandemic wreaks havoc across the developing and developed world, refugee communities, vulnerable groups even under normal circumstances, face an unprecedented challenge. The Rohingya community, refugees from state persecution and civil conflict in Rakhine, Myanmar, have been victim to multiple issues in different places where they are seeking refuge.
In India, Rohingya families settled in different camp and non-camp areas are vulnerable to contagion due to their cramped living conditions and limited access to healthcare. The community fears the religious polarisation and campaign of hate that is likely to emerge if they catch the disease. The Rohingya in India are recognized as refugees by the UNHCR and acknowledged by the UN as a persecuted group.
An additional fear is of existing health issues that may not be addressed under the current circumstances. Maliki, of Balapur, Hyderabad, is isolated at home, but his daughter needed an urgent blood transfusion for thalassemia. Their usual option – the Thalassemia Society in Banjara Hills – was closed off and private hospitals demanded too much money. Maliki told Rohingya Human Rights Initiative has been unable to help his daughter as yet.
However, the direst threat facing the community at the moment is hunger. A vast majority work in informal sector occupations, all of which are have been shut down during the countrywide COVID 19 lockdown. With no work, no savings, and rising prices, they are left dependent on NGOs and benevolent locals who extend charity to them in these times of need.
Groups of refugees across Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu, and Hyderabad are facing a shortage of rations, and no wages are unable to buy food supplies. A group of 23 in Haridwar who had traveled from Jammu from work are currently stuck there, with no food and supplies, and desperate for aid. Rations have been distributed in some camps by the UNHCR. And local NGOs, but these are swiftly running out. Several community members told the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative
Rohingya Human Rights Initiative welcomes the government’s latest move of screening Rohingya refugees. They need support for their healthcare, they need support to get through this crisis. Their only request is that the Indian Government help them with rations and essential services during this time as they are unable to work at all.
The article is a part of Rohingya Human Rights Initiative’s works and it is originally published in their website. The author is an independent researcher.