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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid