The Rohingya had very limited access to health care in Myanmar, and the majority did not receive routine vaccinations. This makes them highly vulnerable to preventable diseases. Vaccination campaigns, supported by MSF, have been instrumental in preventing outbreaks of cholera and measles, and in containing the spread of diphtheria—a rare disease long forgotten in most parts of the world. In December 2017, MSF warned that diphtheria was re-emerging among the Rohingya. Diphtheria is a contagious bacterial infection known to cause airway obstruction and damage to the heart and nervous system, and can be fatal if left untreated. MSF treated more than 7,032 people for diphtheria in Cox’s Bazar district by the end of June 2018.
We are also responding to the aftermath of horrific violence against the Rohingya committed by security forces and militias in Myanmar during the “clearance operations” that began on August 25, 2017. MSF has gathered accounts from patients from different areas of Rakhine state describing raids on villages, arson attacks, shootings, stabbings, and sexual violence. Our report provides a startling picture of widespread and targeted violence against the Rohingya. Using the most conservative figures, MSF mortality surveys indicate that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed within the first month of the violent campaign—including at least 730 children under the age of five.