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There are 855,000 Rohingya refugees living in very congested refugee camps in Cox's Bazar. Understandably there is real concern that a Coronavirus outbreak would be very serious in these restricted circumstances.

In 2017 the WHO reported how acute respiratory infections (ARIs) were responsible for the highest proportion of deaths in these camps. The present situation of a large population with depressed immunity living in an overcrowded restricted space makes the Rohingya community once again particularly vulnerable to this new respiratory virus.

In 2018 I had the opportunity to demonstrate the double elevated RSK shelter to MSF staff at their field hospital at Cox's Bazar. Doctors in attendance agreed that several modular RSK units would make ideal temporary wards if needed. The structural advantages of using reciprocal frame roof units for this purpose were well accepted at the time and I have listed them here:

1. The RSK uses only complete bamboo poles and not the traditional roof lattice of canes or split bamboo.

This makes the roof much easier to build and also to be able to support insulation to make the shelter cooler.  


2. The RSK uses only 2 different lengths of complete bamboo poles for the roof frame. 

These poles are interchangeable and can be simply lashed together on the ground thereby enabling complete roof frames to be mass produced in large numbers. 


3. The RSK roof is not supported by the walls but by the corner posts. 

This greatly facilitates the building of improved ventilation at eaves level and also allows the use of any solid materials locally available to infill the walls.

4. The RSK shelter is truly modular.

Four units combine to cover 40 square metres of floorspace that  can be extended further as required to make larger wards.


5. The  RSK uses 33% less bamboo than any equivalent shelter.

This not only reduces the time and costs for bamboo transportation but also saves valuable bamboo resources.

These structural advantages could have a considerable impact on how we prepare and respond to a Coronavirus outbreak in the camps.  RSK roof frames can be mass produced and stored in advance thereby enabling temporary wards to be erected rapidly and in large numbers.

RSK temporary wards could be used for both isolation and treatment of patients. They are cooler, provide better ventilation and, by avoiding the use of bamboo lattices overhead, have surfaces that are easier to clean and disinfect. In addition the strong overhead frame is ideal for hanging partitions for privacy and intravenous drips.

This is an opportunity to make a real difference to the welfare of particularly vulnerable families facing a potential outbreak of Coronavirus in a very difficult situation.


I would be pleased to work with any organisation that could help me implement this humanitarian shelter initiative in the camps in Cox's Bazar, and thereby help the Rohingya refugees in the event of a Coronavirus oubreak.

Please get in touch to discuss how we can take this forward.

Shaun Halbert

RSK Shelter Charity

Tel: +44 7970 106786 (Viber / WhatsApp)



Roof frames are first lashed together on the ground.

 PHOTO: S.Halbert  Yangon 2016 Shelter Cluster training


Lifting the roof frames onto bamboo support posts

 PHOTO: S.Halbert  Yangon 2016 Shelter Cluster RSK training


Positioning the first tarpaulins

 PHOTO: S.Halbert  Yangon 2016 Shelter Cluster RSK training


Using available bamboo panels for walls. Earthbags lined with tarpaulins would be better for temporary wards.

 PHOTO: S.Halbert  Yangon 2016 Shelter Cluster RSK training


Inside the RSK unit. A cooler, better ventilated space that is easier to clean and disinfect.

Photo: S.Halbert Bangladesh 2018

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