|This file photo shows an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, on November 2, 2012 (AFP/File, Soe Than Win)|
February 7, 2013
YANGON — Medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders warned on Thursday of a “humanitarian emergency” in strife-hit western Myanmar with tens of thousands of people unable to access urgently needed medical care.
Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) said its teams on the ground in Rakhine State faced threats, hostility and accusations of a bias towards the Rohingya Muslim minority group.
Displaced people living in makeshift camps in Rakhine are cut off from healthcare, clean water and basic provisions, according to the humanitarian group, which has worked in the area for two decades.
“It is among people living in makeshift camps in rice fields or other crowded strips of land that Medecins Sans Frontieres is seeing the most acute medical needs,” MSF general director Arjan Hehenkamp said in a statement.
“Ongoing insecurity and repeated threats and intimidation by a small but vocal group within the Rakhine community have severely impacted on our ability to deliver lifesaving medical care.”
More than 100,000 people — mostly Rohingya — have been displaced and dozens killed since June 2012 in Rakhine in two major eruptions of violence between Buddhists and Muslims, mainly from the Rohingya minority.
Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.
Thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar in recent months on rickety boats, mostly believed to be heading for Malaysia.
MSF said some pregnant women faced giving birth in muddy camps without a doctor, while surveys have revealed alarming numbers of acutely malnourished children. Some of the displaced lack access to clean water.
“The only drinking water pond we have is the one which we have to share with the cattle of the nearby village. Five minutes from here is a pond with crystal clear water. We don’t dare to go,” MSF quoted one displaced man as saying.
Skin infections, worms, chronic coughing and diarrhoea are also common ailments.
MSF urged the Myanmar government and community leaders “to ensure that all people of Rakhine can live without fear of violence, abuse and harassment, and that humanitarian organisations can assist those most in need”.