In summer of 2017, the Rohingya people in Myanmar were targeted by a violent military campaign. This was not the first campaign against the Rohingya, but it was by far the largest. More than 700,000 people fled to neighboring Bangladesh, joining more than 200,000 people who had taken refuge in camps during previous attacks. Some 154,000 refugees also sought safety in Malaysia.
Four years after fleeing their homes, life in the camps—which were meant to provide temporary refuge—has become oppressive. The Rohingya people, who are officially stateless, have been subjected to discrimination, stigmatized as criminals or disease carriers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and denied basic rights and adequate access to services, including health care.
Many of the refugees say that they want to go back to Myanmar, which they consider their home, but not without a guarantee of safety from the government. “If the government there could guarantee a safe return to our homeland, we would definitely go back,” said Tuyoba, a Rohingya refugee and traditional birth attendant. “But if they cannot, how can we do it?”
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff providing medical and mental health care to the refugees say that the lack of any foreseeable solution to their situation is taking a serious toll on their mental health.