Zaw Rina lost her home in Pauktaw town during the violence. It was burned down, forcing Rina and her family to flee to Ah Nauk Ywe—a camp on an isolated island in the remote western part of Rakhine state. Ah Nauk Ywe is one of more than 20 camps that were set up for displaced people in the region, most of whom are Rohingya—a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority who have lived in Myanmar for hundreds of years, yet are denied citizenship by Myanmar’s government, leaving them stateless.
The camps are scattered across the region, enclosed with barbed wire fencing, and surrounded by military checkpoints. After the clashes, most families whose homes were not destroyed were also forced to live in camps. In the decade since, several thousand people who were displaced in 2012 have left the camps, sometimes fleeing the country and ending up in squalid camps in Bangladesh or risking their lives in overcrowded boats to reach Malaysia. But, like Rina, 135,000 Rohingya and Kaman Muslims remain, arbitrarily detained in makeshift shelters, with no freedom to move, and no access to paid work, education, or health care.
MSF provides primary health care and emergency referrals for people displaced by conflict in Rakhine. It’s one of the few medical services people living in camps can access. Through MSF’s health care clinics, our counselors and doctors also provide vital mental health care support, including individual consultations, group sessions, and home visits. These services are available to anyone who comes to MSF’s facilities, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.
A decade on and little change
Rina and her family live in a fragile bamboo structure in Ah Nauk Ywe—one of five camps in Pauktaw township that host more than 5,000 people. Narrow, muddy pathways are lined with flimsy shelters. Drainage is insufficient, leaving puddles of stagnant water, a breeding ground for mosquitos that carry deadly diseases. There not enough toilets, and low water supplies, particularly in the dry season, make the facilities extremely unsanitary. Privacy is almost impossible.
The day-to-day reality for Rina and thousands of others living in Rakhine state is marked by a struggle to afford food, fears about safety, and feelings of hopelessness. This has drastic consequences for mental health.