For Salma, a community health volunteer and Rohingya refugee living in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, a typical day begins with morning meetings with Rohingya community leaders followed by her daily rounds of in person case visits.

Although just 19, Salma is entrusted with a tremendous amount of responsibility in her community and understands the important role she is playing to reshape what opportunities are available to women in the camp. “I have respect in the community because I help people get the care they need,” she proudly shares.

Salma is one of many women in a cross-generational program working directly with their communities to ensure other refugees are aware of health services they can access. Community health volunteers receive monthly training from UNHCR and play a vital role in conducting community outreach, providing health education and delivering first aid to refugees in the camp. Working with other women in the camp on issues of family planning and pre- and post-natal care for women and infants is what drives Salma.

“Whenever there is a lady with labor pain, they call me first,” Salma explains. “[Pregnant women] know I will get them to the right health center and they will get the care they need. It makes me very proud.”

The community health volunteer group is part of a larger community-based protection model in the camp that was introduced as way to give refugees like Salma the chance to gain control over their lives, learn new skills and to empower all members of the Rohingya community living in Kutupalong. The volunteer groups promote meaningful community engagement opportunities and by the end of 2019, nearly 50 percent of all community volunteers were women and girls.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, the role of refugee community volunteers has become essential to helping stop the spread of the virus in the camp. In recent months, there has been an 80 percent reduction of humanitarian workers in the camp in order to reduce the risk of further transmission of the virus. As humanitarian work has scaled down in the camp, refugee health volunteer work has scaled up to meet unmet needs.

Salma’s responsibilities also have shifted to the COVID-19 response. She is joined by more than 1,400 other community health volunteers trained on COVID-19 protection measures that include hygiene promotion, how the virus spreads, how people can protect themselves and their families, and how to recognize symptoms and seek care.

Additional protection measures in the camp include the construction of isolation and treatment centers. And to promote safe quarantining of affected families, health volunteers are now referring families for home delivery of food, fuel and essential items.

Salma and other health volunteers are making a lifesaving difference in their community despite living in a densely populated refugee camp where social distancing is extremely challenging. By the end of July, there were fewer than 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases among the Rohingya refugee population.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh need your help…

UNHCR is on the ground providing lifesaving humanitarian support to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. However, they need your help. Becoming a monthly donor is the most efficient and effective way to help those fleeing conflict. Make a difference in the lives of refugees by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor.