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Supporting elderly refugees who are at higher risk during COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Apr 10

Through Humanity Auxilium's COVID-19 Outreach Project, we've been able to support and protect so many Rohingya refugees from this deadly virus.



Abul Hossain is an elderly person, aged 73, who has been living in Camp 17 for the last three years with several physical complications. He has an elderly wife aged 68, a widowed daughter and a grandson. Their grandson Syed Nur, only 13 years old is still considered a child from the point of view of the camp management. But, this undulating terrain proves to be a challenge for his grandparents who liken it to an obstacle course. Most of the distribution points and health facilities are located on top of hills within the camps and it doesn’t make it easier when you have aching joints and poor health.


In the most densely-populated areas with little to no hygiene measures, people tend to get affected by diseases frequently.


“We are suffering from diseases most often since I fled from Burma. Catching cold and fever never left us even if we move from there to here,” says Hossain.


Hossain complains of having a chronic cough, breathlessness and general weakness which exacerbates occasionally. He also suffers from gastritis and heartburn when taking meals, along with difficulty falling asleep. His wife is also suffering from long term cough and headache.


“My wife cannot sleep because of headache and neck pain with coughing,” he admits.


But, due to the social stigma associated with COVID-19 in the camps and out of fear of being isolated and separated from immediate family, they are reluctant to go to any hospital to seek medical care.


“Even though we have many health care facilities here, we stopped going to health facilities after COVID-19, because we became afraid." -Abul Hossain.

Humanity Auxilium’s community-based surveillance and primary medical care project, in response to COVID-19, reached Hossain while he was keeping himself cooped up at home, although he was suffering from cough. The community surveillance volunteers, along with medical staff, checked him and led him to the project coordination medical center, which is managed by the Turkish Red Crescent in order to help Rohingya receive medical help.


When thanking donors, Hossain mentioned, “When we were afraid of COVID-19, they visited from shelter to shelter to check us and informed that we can go to the nearby Turkish Red Crescent health care center. We got medical care from there and got relieved from the disease.”


His wife, Noor Haba says she has a recurring cough that comes and goes along with a burning sensation in the head and upper back since last year which keeps her up at night. She too has gastritis. Consequently, she has reduced interest in her daily activities and has a reduced appetite. She also never had her blood pressure measured during her stay in the camps. After she arrived at our facility, we found she had a higher blood pressure than normal. This could be the reason of that nagging pain in the head that she has been complaining about.


Their grandson Syed Noor seems rather aloof on first impression. He hardly makes eye contact with the outreach teams and medical professionals. He travelled to Bangladesh from Myanmar during the influx of August 2017 with his mother and grandparents. His father had gone missing in Myanmar, and his mother remarried one and half years back leaving him in the care of his grandparents.

Syed regularly develops fever with cough and runny nose. Usually he would visit the health facilities, but this time he felt scared of going alone to the hospitals in the fear that he would be isolated. Our team reached him and found him to have a fever. He was then brought to our health facility where the health team examined him thoroughly. His grandmother says that he hardly speaks and doesn’t respond well to questions. Our teams assessed him and gave him prescription. He will be followed up again to look for changes in his condition.


The project’s community surveillance team also provided continuous awareness to the community with a regular follow up to the treated patients. This helped the community to overcome fear and seek the health facilities again.


With relieved fear from seeking medical relief, Hossain is requesting further medical care.


“We have ear pain, toothache, headache, so it could be better to get medical relief for these problems, too.”


These refugees continue to need our help and support during the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more or to donate to this project, please visit our COVID-19 Outreach Project page.


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