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Feb-24-2014 10:33printcomments

Burma: A Sorry State of Health... and Aid Workers Under Fire from Rakhine groups

In the complete absence of medical care, aid workers say that children have died from cases as simple as a common cold.

NGO protest in Burma
NGO protest in Burma - special thanks to Burma Times

(LONDON Burma Times) - Malnutrition, malaria, maternal mortality, diarrhoea and death – - this is how a medical aid worker would describe the state of the Rohingya Muslims in Arakan. The situation is worse because the living conditions in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, home to more than one hundred thousand Rohingyas, has been described as the worst in the world, according to international relief workers. But they also say Rohingyas living outside the camps are completely cut off from medical care due to travelling restrictions.

Rohingya Muslims have for a long time been forbidden to travel from one village to another without prior permission of authorities in Arakan. Since the riots of 2012, authorities rarely permit Rohingyas to leave their own localities. The government says that this is to protect Rohingyas from hostile mobs, but critics say that this has turned the entire Northern Arakan into an open air prison for Rohingyas.

In the complete absence of medical care, aid workers say that children have died from cases as simple as a common cold.

As the state of blockade continues, mobile medical services provided by international aid organisations such as the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have become the sole lifeline for the community. But Buddhist Rakhine groups allege that MSF and other international organisations are biased towards the Muslims and want them out of Arakan.

Medical personnel are regularly blocked by the Rakhines from entering the camps or the villages where Rohingyas reside. Armed gangs of Rakhines often intercede medical personnel at the entrances to villages or camps. MSF workers say that as a result many Rohingyas die unnecessarily. Medical operations have been regularly suspended owing to threats and blockades enforced by vigilante mobs.

On February 3, more than 3,000 anti Muslim demonstrators took to the streets of the provincial capital Sittwe where they placed demands including the withdrawal from the area of the UN, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and other international relief groups. Other demands included that police be given permission to use emergency force on Rohingyas in emergency situations. Similar protests are planned in other parts of the province.

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