Medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders warned of a "humanitarian emergency" in strife-hit western Myanmar with tens of thousands of people unable to access urgently needed medical care. Its teams on the ground in Rakhine State faced threats, hostility and accusations of a bias towards the Rohingya Muslim minority group.
Displaced people living in makeshift camps in Rakhine are cut off from healthcare, clean water and basic provisions, according to the humanitarian group, which has worked in the area for two decades. "It is among people living in makeshift camps in rice fields or other crowded strips of land that Medecins Sans Frontieres is seeing the most acute medical needs," MSF general director Arjan Hehenkamp said in a statement. "Ongoing insecurity and repeated threats and intimidation by a small but vocal group within the Rakhine community have severely impacted on our ability to deliver lifesaving medical care. The only drinking water pond we have is the one which we have to share with the cattle of the nearby village. Five minutes from here is a pond with crystal clear water. We don't dare to go," MSF quoted one displaced man as saying. Skin infections, worms, chronic coughing and diarrohea are also common ailments.
MSF said the main challenge to its support operations was the hostility the group encountered from local Arakanese community, which objected to MSF operations for Muslims in northern and eastern Arakan State. “In pamphlets, letters and Facebook postings, MSF and others have been repeatedly accused of having a pro-Rohingya bias, by some members of the (rakanese) community. It is this intimidation, rather than formal permission for access, that is the primary challenge,” MSF said in a release.
Its General Director made a direct appeal to the national government and local state leaders to publicly support the group’s aid work. “I would like to ask the government and the community in Arakan State, to stand up and support our medical mission, affirming this is a medical mission that is neutral and works for every communities,” Hehenkamp said.