As Super Cyclone Amphan Approaches, IOM Ramps Up COVID-19 Response in Cox's Bazar

Ongoing construction of the Isolation and Treatment Facility in Camp 20 Extension, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: IOM/Mashrif Abdullah Al  

IOM staff manage a 24/7 MHPSS hotline. With in-person support largely restricted due to COVID-19, hotlines have been set up in Health Clinics across the camp for beneficiaries to use freely for mental health and psychosocial support. Photo: IOM/Mashrif Abdullah Al 

Cox’s Bazar – Just days after the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the Rohingya settlements of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, approximately 1.2 million refugees and host community members now face the threat of Cyclone – a super cyclonic storm with maximum sustained winds of 265 kilometres per hour.

It is expected to cross the Bangladeshi coastline tomorrow (20-May).

“We are extremely concerned that there will be a new humanitarian crisis in the district if a cyclone hits  while we try to contain the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Manuel Pereira, Deputy Chief of Mission for IOM Bangladesh. 

“Communities are already vulnerable to the devastating health crisis and we know that if people are forced to seek communal shelter, they will be unable to maintain physical distancing and run the risk of contracting or transmitting the disease.”

IOM teams are using what they learned responding to Cyclone Bulbul in November 2019, to prepare for the new cyclone season, training first responders on early warning mechanisms and response activities, distributing and prepositioning supplies, renovating community cyclone shelters, reinforcing critical infrastructure, repairing drainage systems, enhancing individual shelter durability and raising awareness throughout the community.

COVID-19 Response Update

According to Government officials, as of yesterday (18 May 2020) five cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the refugee population at Cox’s Bazar, based on 140 tests.

There have been 23,870 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 349 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths in Bangladesh, according to Bangladesh Government statistics. While large strides have been made to increase testing, strict limitations remain.

IOM staff are now engaged in a multifaceted response to contain the spread of COVID-19 while coordinating a comprehensive cyclone preparedness effort – alerting the community, reinforcing critical infrastructure and prepositioning emergency items before the cyclone makes landfall.

  • IOM is constructing new a 250-bed capacity Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Isolation and Treatment Centre (SARI ITC) which will contribute to the larger target agreed upon by the lead actors of the humanitarian community, IOM, UNICEF and UNHCR.    
  • Triage areas in the 35 primary care facilities IOM supports along with three isolation and treatment centres, and a 93-unit contact-tracing quarantine centre large enough to accommodate 465 is nearing completion.
  • IOM is also setting up much needed oxygen provisions as a common pipeline service for treatment facilities supporting both its own and partners.
  • Through 24-hour hotlines and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology, IOM continues to respond despite operational challenges, providing life-saving information while dispelling harmful rumours and misinformation having reached more than 20,000 calls over the last weeks. 

For more information please contact Nathan Webb at IOM Bangladesh. Tel: + 880 1869 530170, Email: or Itayi Viriri at IOM Regional Office for Asia Pacific at Tel: +63 917 890 8785, Email: