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The scared people did not know the ways of preventing such an infectious and deadly disease. They did not how to identify affected people or what could be done if someone was affected. Moreover, people started stigmatizing COVID-19 affected individuals. The new normal was making people frustrated; it was asking them to live away from their loved ones. To some extent like refugees, who had to leave everything behind. While on the other hand, in the Rohingya Refugee Camps in Cox’s Bazar, misinformation and rumours were much more persistent than ever before. Isolating oneself in such overcrowded camps was impossible, which made people more and more anxious and led them to resort to unhealthy practices, often disregarding the presence of COVID-19.
We were aware that we needed to find a way to disseminate information while maintaining physical distancing and hygiene protocols. So we used loudspeakers to disseminate the messages. We recorded messages on what COVID-19 was, how it can be prevented, signs of identification and what to do if someone was affected. We focused on reassuring that COVID -19 is preventable and tried to give people the mental strength to deal with the pandemic. We went all around the Cox’s Bazar district trying to cover each and every corner. The streets were empty, the shops closed; but we saw people were listening to the messages from their home. Children were peeking through the windows and trying to figure out why they couldn’t go out and play. Elders stood at their front doors and balconies to listen more intently to the messages.
In the Rohingya camp, we focused more on good hygiene practice. The Action Against Hunger centres in the Camp remained open, maintaining all hygiene and physical distancing protocols, to provide emergency support to the Rohingya Community. In our Info Hubs, we played interesting videos and compelling audios explaining what COVID-19 is, what are its symptoms, how it can be prevented, and what to do if one was infected. The Rohingyas had very vague idea of the Corona Virus. But they were informed via these audio/video sessions. Minara Begum, a Rohingya mother of two, said “I now understand the symptoms of COVID-19 and will maintain distance while interacting with people who have these symptoms”.
We also engaged the Rohingya refugees in ‘Question and Answer’ sessions so that we were also aware of their perception of COVID-19 and to clarify any doubts they had. Considering that it was extremely essential to maintain personal hygiene in order to prevent COVID-19 infection, we focused on disseminating hygiene practice messages and encouraged people in following them again and again. Khurshida, a 28-year-old Rohingya woman, was scared about the ongoing tension regarding Coronavirus, but after learning the ways of preventing COVID-19 from the CwC team, she realized that infection can be avoided if she followed good hygiene practices
The Action Against Hunger team fought against the infodemic and was successful in sensitizing people. We have reached a huge number of people in both the host and refugee community in Cox’s Bazar, to disseminate correct information during the pandemic. We were the first actors to disseminate government endorsed COVID-19 awareness messages in Cox’s Bazar district via Loudspeaker and many other humanitarian actors followed suit. Mass awareness raising through loudspeakers complemented and highly strengthened efforts of other sectors such as Nutrition and Health, Water Sanitation and Hygiene, Mental Health and Care Practice, to successfully fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Cox’s Bazar.
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