Monday, February 23, 2009

Medical condition of the Robingya refugees

We have posted a lot lately about the Robingya refugees in Thailand and Bangladesh. The Muslim Robingya flee the Buddhist country of Myanmar for freedom, as they are not recognized as a minority people in that country.

Today, we get a glimpse into the conditions for the Robingya people who are detained in Thailand. Medecins sans Frontieres has a story today about their condition. The organization says that the Rohingya's detention is a growing humanitarian crisis.

MSF has been granted access to groups of Rohingya detained by the Thai authorities on a number of occasions during recent years. “On arrival their medical condition speaks volumes about the experience that they have undergone at sea. We generally treat people for dehydration, skin disease and bruising, varying in severity - depending on the length of their journey,” explains MSF head of mission in Thailand, Richard Veerman, “Last year we found out that one immigration detention centre was holding six hundred Rohingya, many had been detained for around three months and were showing signs of stress. Some appeared to be suffering from severe psychological trauma”. Over the past two years, the number of Rohingya arriving in Thailand has reached an all time high. “This is a clear indication that more needs to be done, not only to ensure adequate assistance on the spot, but to address the root cause of the problem back in Myanmar”, concludes Richard.

Cox’s Bazaar, on the eastern shores of Bangladesh has seen countless Rohingya come and go over the years; those who have fled from Myanmar and those who pile into overcrowded boats headed for Thailand and beyond. For those who stay, living can be extremely tough. MSF began providing health services for the Rohingya in Bangladesh in 1998, most recently assisting about 7,500 people who struggled to survive, otherwise unaided, in atrocious living conditions in Tal Makeshift Camp. “The overcrowded, unhygienic living conditions were a breeding ground for respiratory tract infections and skin diseases; diarrhoea was rife and many of the children were malnourished. Mental health problems added to the burden and an MSF programme was started to support those struggling with the psychological impact of life in the camp”, tells MSF medical coordinator in Bangladesh, Gabi Popescu.

“Over the years I have heard many reasons for people fleeing Myanmar. A woman and her three children left following her husband’s arrest, in fear for her family. Another couple left, the woman some months pregnant, out of fear of the repercussions they would face for being unable to afford the official marriage license, not to mention the child birth license”, Gabi continues. The Rohingya living in Northern Rakhine State Myanmar, are legally obliged to purchase expensive marriage permits, unlike the rest of the population. Children being born out of marriage often results in high informal fines or imprisonment and a two child only policy applies.

1 comment:

Pete Masters said...

Hi Poverty News Blog, I am Pete, web editor at MSF. Just wanted to say a couple of things... Firstly, thanks for the post - it's really great when guys like you help us to bear witness to the plight of the people we work with. Secondly, we have a project involving bespoke RSS feeds that we are developing and I thought you might be interested in helping us test. If you are, please contact me at pete dot masters at london dot msf dot org. If not, thanks anyway!