Since August 2017, the Myanmar government's ban on international staff and suspension of travel authorizations have effectively cut off urgently needed humanitarian aid to Rakhine state, where the Rohingya people have lived for generations.
The Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim minority, have long been subjected to violence and persecution in Myanmar. Last year, a spate of attacks against police stations and a military base claimed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on August 25 was immediately followed by a massive campaign of targeted violence by Myanmar security forces against all members of the community, including women and children. At a conservative estimate, at least 6,700 Rohingya are believed to have been killed in Myanmar in the first one-month period of so-called "clearance operations," including at least 730 children under the age of five.
More than 713,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh following the crackdown, joining some 200,000 others who had fled earlier cycles of violence and abuse. Tens of thousands of Rohingya are thought to remain in Rakhine state, cut off from aid.
Until August 2017, MSF provided primary and reproductive health care in both fixed and mobile clinics in Maungdaw district and supported Ministry of Health and Sports hospitals in Maungdaw and Buthidaung with care for HIV patients. Teams carried out more than 36,000 medical consultations and 1,043 referrals in 2017. In and around Sittwe and Pauktaw, MSF offered primary and reproductive health care and emergency referrals through mobile clinics deployed to villages and five camps for internally displaced people, with an average of 1,820 consultations per month in the camps. These operations were restricted in early August 2017 and remain on hold, despite calls for independent and unfettered humanitarian access to the region.
MSF’s ongoing projects elsewhere in Myanmar, namely Shan and Kachin states and Yangon, the Naga Self-Administered Zone, and Tanintharyi Region, encompass HIV, TB, primary health care, sexual and reproductive health care, emergency referrals to public hospitals, and malaria treatment. In 2017 MSF teams in Shan and Kachin states treated 16,586 patients with HIV and 504 patients with tuberculosis, including 28 suffering from multidrug-resistant forms of the disease.
A worsening political climate and an inability to secure access also hampered MSF's work in Myanmar's Wa Special Region 2, where we were forced to halt activities in mid-2017. Before closing projects, our teams conducted more than 2,430 outpatient consultations at both fixed and mobile clinics.