Noor Bahar’s family was killed during the violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State in 2017. The only survivor, she fled across the border to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where she now lives as a refugee in Kutupalong Refugee Camp. With no family members to help her, she relies on the support of community volunteers in her neighborhood. As an asthma sufferer, she has to take care of her health, especially with the threat of COVID-19.
One evening in March, Noor suffered an acute asthma attack in her shelter. A passerby saw her struggling to breathe and alerted Zainul Mostofa, a Rohingya Community Health Volunteer supported by Community Partners International (CPI).
Zainul rushed to Noor’s shelter and found her semi-conscious. He tried to contact an ambulance but, concerned about the delay, chose instead to hire a motor rickshaw that was in the neighborhood. Zainul accompanied Noor in the rickshaw to a nearby primary health care center where Noor could receive treatment. They reached the center just 20 minutes after Zainul had been alerted about Noor’s condition.
At the health center, the duty doctor examined Noor. Her blood oxygen level was low and continuing to decrease, putting her at risk of damage to her heart and brain. The doctor immediately placed her on oxygen support. After an hour, Noor’s condition stabilized and she was transferred to hospital for further treatment. Zainul arranged for a community member to accompany her to hospital to support her with her basic needs while she received care.
Noor spent two days in hospital. Once she was well enough, she returned home with prescribed medication from the hospital to continue her recovery. She is now doing well and is grateful for Zainul’s quick thinking and actions at a critical moment. Zainul continues to check in with her as she recovers
Noor’s situation highlights the challenges for elderly refugees living alone in Cox’s Bazar. Zainul and his Rohingya Community Health Volunteer colleagues do their best to help but they don’t always have enough resources.
“We are glad to help elderly people like Noor who live alone. We provide extra support for vulnerable individuals when we identify risk factors but unfortunately we don’t have enough time to help them as much as a family member would,” Zainul explains. “We worry about how we will cope if there is a severe outbreak of COVID-19 here,” he adds. “We will need to support health referrals for a lot of people if that happens.”