Save the Children has urgently called for international assistance to help Bangladesh meet a surge in demand for ventilators to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak and avert a humanitarian disaster in the country.
Most of the country's intensive care beds and ventilators are in the major urban centers, including capital Dhaka, making it difficult for remote communities to access, it said.
There are reportedly 1,769 ventilators in Bangladesh at this moment or in the pipeline, which means an average of one ventilator for every 93,273 people, said the Save the Children in a media release.
The organisation expressed concern for the estimated 3.3 million people who live in Cox's Bazar district, one million of whom are Rohingyas living in cramped conditions with limited access to adequate hygiene and health facilities.
The scarcity of ventilators in the district means lives will be lost when COVID-19 starts to spread more widely in the community.
Save the Children called for a single global plan to help confront one of the biggest threats to global health and security in modern times.
This plan must be underpinned by debt relief, increased financing for public health, safety nets for the most vulnerable, and effective coordination.
"At present, it is difficult for Bangladesh to meet the expected surge in demand for ventilators to help respond to the COVID-19 outbreak," said Dr Shamim Jahan, Deputy Country Director for Save the Children in Bangladesh. "We are in this together - no single country can confront COVID-19 alone, even the richest and most powerful among us."
"It is therefore essential that world leaders – in particular the G20 countries – commit to a coordinated global plan underpinned by debt relief. We also urge the Bangladesh government to engage the public and private sectors urgently to secure ventilators for COVID-19 patients," Dr. Jahan added.
"Without access to intensive care facilities in Cox's Bazar, patients in critical condition may have to be transported to neighboring Chittagong district more than 90 miles away, further increasing the risk to them and others," said Athena Rayburn, Save the Children's Rohingya Response Advocacy Manager.
"Ventilators and people trained to operate them are urgently needed to protect the host communities and Rohingya refugees to avert a humanitarian disaster. Children are at serious risk of not only contracting the virus, but also of being orphaned or neglected if family members become infected or die," Rayburn added.
Save the Children is ramping up its existing programs in Bangladesh.
In the Rohingya camps, host communities and other districts in Bangladesh, the organization is delivering critical supplies to health workers, restoring hygiene facilities, providing cash support to low -income households and providing families with information on how to protect themselves from the virus.