News / Asia

Medical Group Warns of Emergency in Burma's Rakhine State

Muslim refugees stand near their tents in Awetawgyi refugee camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Burma, January 8, 2013.
Muslim refugees stand near their tents in Awetawgyi refugee camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Burma, January 8, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
Doctors Without Borders is warning of a growing humanitarian crisis in Burma's western Rakhine state, where communal fighting last year displaced more than 100,000 people, most of them Muslims.  The medical aid group says threats against its staff have hampered efforts to improve sanitation and health care and that the situation is likely to worsen with the next monsoon.

Doctors Without Borders says tens of thousands of people living in relief camps in Burma's Rakhine state are still unable to access much-needed medical care.  

The medical aid group, known by its French abbreviation MSF (Medcins sans Frontiers), issued a statement Thursday saying medical support and sanitation for the camps need to be stepped up.

It says months after communal fighting devastated Rakhine state, too many people are still living in makeshift tents and lack access to clean water and basic provisions.

Speaking from Rangoon, Arjan Hehenkamp, general director for MSF, says the upcoming monsoon season is likely to worsen the situation.

"Particularly as we're approaching the rainy season, that will come up, we're very concerned that [if] this [help] does not scale up, an immediate scale-up of the activities today, then we'll face even a much worse situation in the next weeks and months," said Hehenkamp.

Communal fighting in western Burma broke out last year between the mainly Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim minorities, the Kaman and Rohingya.

Clashes erupted after a busload of Muslims were murdered by a Rakhine mob in a revenge for the rape of a Buddhist girl, allegedly by Muslims.

Tit-for-tat violence left close to 200 people dead, thousands of homes burned and more than 100,000 people displaced into relief camps, most of them stateless Rohingyas.  

Hehenkamp says the biggest obstacle to helping those in need in Rakhine is not the number of foreign staff or even funding, but in getting enough local hires to help out.  He says, since the communal violence broke out last year, MSF has lost 150 national staff who left because of intimidation and communal tensions.

"They felt affected.  They were affected by the conflict and by the tensions between these communities," said Hehenkamp. "And, therefore, yes, they felt it was impossible for them to continue with their work with MSF because we are trying to serve both communities.  But, we are also serving the Muslim community the most because there are many more Muslims displaced and they are living in worse conditions than the Rakhine displaced."

MSF is urging Burmese authorities to publicly voice support for their work to reduce threats against it and other foreign aid organizations.

Burma does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, despite an estimated 800,000 of them living in Rakhine, many of them for generations.

They are considered illegal migrants from Bangladesh, where they are also rejected.  

Many Rohingya take to boats to escape the conflict and find work in Malaysia.  Some end up in Thailand as illegals and can get arrested or pushed back out to sea by the military.

Thailand's Internal Security Operations Command Thursday said nearly 6,000 Rohingya have arrived in the country since October.

The Bangkok Post says more than 4,000 of them were "pushed out", a practice rights group and the United Nations refugee agency have criticized as inhumane.

Colonel Jakkrit Tangjittaporn is with the spokesperson's office of ISOC.  He would not comment on whether Rohingya were pushed back to sea or how many remained in Thailand, but says they do their best to help.

"We help also on basis of human right(s) to give Rohingya people to have food, drinks and accommodation," said Jakkrit.

More than 1,400 Rohingya were detained in Thailand's south, last month.  

Jakkrit says Thailand is working with the U.N. refugee agency for a regional, long-term solution.

The United Nations says the Rohingya are among the most persecuted minorities in the world.

The U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana will visit Rakhine state next week to assess the situation.

Quintana will also visit northern Kachin state where heavy fighting between Burma's military and Kachin rebels has displaced more than 80,000 villagers.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid