Myanmar: MSF Cautiously Welcomes Offer to Return to Rakhine


AMSTERDAM—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today welcomed with caution an official announcement that MSF will be allowed to resume operations in Rakhine State, after it was forced to halt medical activities there in February.

Since February MSF has engaged in ongoing dialogue with the Union Government of Myanmar and the Rakhine State Government, which announced that MSF would be able to resume medical activities.

“MSF is cautiously optimistic about this development,” said Marcel Langenbach, director of operations for MSF in Amsterdam. “Given that access to medical services remains a major challenge for many people in Rakhine, we hope that MSF can resume treating patients as soon as possible.”

MSF has been working in Rakhine since 1994. Until its suspension it was the largest non-governmental medical provider in the state.

“We believe it is critical that the Government allows humanitarian aid agencies to have unfettered access, to ensure people can receive medical care,” said Langenbach. “We understand that this is a sensitive environment, particularly with regard to inter-communal tensions. This makes it all the more important that independent international organizations can play their role in treating those most vulnerable.”

Prior to February, MSF provided medical services in 24 camps for displaced people and in isolated villages across Rakhine. In 2013 alone, MSF doctors and community health workers performed more than 400,000 consultations in Rakhine, addressing HIV, tuberculosis, malnutrition, malaria, antenatal and postnatal care, and mental health.

“We remain eager to resume activities throughout Rakhine State and have a team of national and international staff ready to provide medical care immediately,” said Langenbach.

MSF has been working in Myanmar since 1992 and is currently providing health care in Shan, Kachin, and Yangon to thousands of people from many ethnic origins. MSF provides 31,700 people living with HIV/AIDS with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment and treats more than 2,500 tuberculosis patients. It was among the first responders to cyclones Nargis and Giri, providing medical assistance, survival items, and clean water resources for hundreds of thousands of people.

Patients waiting at the triage area for treatment at MSF clinic in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Pauk Taw township, February 3, 2013. photo by Kaung Htet