Rohingya refugees struggle for vaccine in COVID-hit India

Death of a Rohingya woman of COVID-19 while in detention highlights the plight of poverty-stricken refugees.

New Delhi, – Earlier this month, Noor Aisha, a 55-year-old Rohingya refugee, died from COVID-19 complications at a government hospital in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Aisha was among more than 200 refugees arrested three months ago and jailed in the Himalayan region’s Kathua district for living in India “illegally”.

“My mother was already suffering from breathing and minor heart problems,” Akhtar Hussain, Aisha’s 21-year-old son, told Al Jazeera.

“After she was arrested on March 6 with the others, her health started deteriorating.”

Aisha and her 70-year-old husband, Nadim Hussain, were arrested on March 6 along with 220 other allegedly undocumented Rohingya and sent to Hiranagar jail in Kathua following a verification drive conducted by the government.

At least 53 of those refugees tested positive for COVID-19 while they were in prison, officials said.

“We immediately isolated these people and gave them medicines as prescribed by the doctor,” the superintendent of police at the Hiranagar Holding Centre, who did not want to be named, told Al Jazeera.


The police officer claimed the facility provided the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to at least 57 Rohingya inmates, who were over the age of 45.

“We have a team of doctors that comes every day to check the health of inmates,” he said.

A physician at the Government Medical College in Kathua said Aisha had recovered and tested negative on June 6.

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