Refugee Camps Face COVID-19: ‘If We Do Nothing, The Harm Is Going To Be So Extreme’

What will happen when COVID-19 hits refugee camps? 

That's what Dr. Paul Spiegel and a team of researchers have been examining. They've been looking at how the coronavirus might affect the densely populated camps outside Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh —  home to 850,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. As of Monday, there are 49 cases in the country, including one person in the town of Cox's Bazar. 

The researchers will use the findings to make recommendations to the United Nations and global aid groups on how to deliver medical care and check the spread of the coronavirus in similar refugee settings. 

Spiegel, a former senior official at the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the director of Johns Hopkins University's Center for Humanitarian Health, explains why these camps are ripe for disease outbreaks — and what aid groups must do now to help. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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Emily Lyles

Dr. Lyles is an associate faculty in the Department of International Health...

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Daniella Malave

Daniella is a Research Associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian...

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Mustafa Kamal Sikder

Dr. Sikder studied long-term and short-term drinking water supply interventions...

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Eileen Shields-West

Eileen Shields-West served as a correspondent of TIME Magazine and San Francisco...

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Jason M. M. Spangler

Jason M. M. Spangler, MD, MPH, FACPM is Executive Director of Value, Quality,...

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