COVID-19, the lockdown and older people living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Published on 17 June 2020 12:00 AM
More than 900,000 Rohingya refugees currently live in 34 camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the majority having fled violence in Myanmar in August 2017.
Working with and through local partners, Age International has been supporting older refugees and older people living in the local community since 2017, predominantly through the creation of Age Friendly Spaces. These have provided safe and dignified spaces to meet, receive services and information and take part in social/recreational activities and a base for outreach to older people who cannot attend the Age Friendly Spaces.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have adapted this programme and are raising awareness of COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread, and giving prevention kits containing essential information, hand sanitizer, soap and food when necessary, to the most at-risk older people – both Rohingya refugees and local residents. We are continuing to provide limited support through Age Friendly Spaces, such as distributing medication.
The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown is affecting everybody. Older people are worried about catching the disease and many are struggling to cope with the mental and financial pressures of being unable to leave their homes, with concerns about how they are going to get the essentials of food and medicine.
Many older people, especially those living in the community, make a living through informal work, such as selling tea, vegetables or small items like stationery, pulling rickshaws and doing security jobs; many older women also work as house helpers/maids. For local families, the older person is often the main or only earner.
In the lockdown, older people can no longer do these jobs and therefore have lost this source of income. In addition, the prices of groceries have gone up and there is a shortage of supplies, meaning that many older people in low- and middle-income families have been struggling to get enough to eat.
Read a firsthand account from two older people who are living in the Cox's Bazar area.
While Age UK is supporting older people in the UK, Age International is working to reach those in high-risk areas in low-income countries where healthcare systems are already severely stretched.
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