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    Doctors Without Borders provides medical care for the Rohingya

    Doctors Without Borders has been responding to the Rohingya refugee crisis for decades. We started our response in Bangladesh in 1985, and since then we have expanded our medical humanitarian support for the Rohingya who have fled to countries in the region as part of a holistic approach to the crisis.

    Today, we have projects in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Malaysia, providing medical care to the Rohingya population.


    To cater to the massive needs of the increased in population following the August 2017 influx, Doctors Without Borders scaled up activities and transitioned towards addressing long-term health needs. 

    Today, there are 8 facilities. 



    To fill in the gaps in access to healthcare, Doctors Without Borders offers medical services to refugees and asylum-seekers at a fixed clinic in Butterworth, Penang and mobile clinics in remote areas of Penang and Kedah as well as detention centers.  



    Doctors without Borders offers medical assistance to the Rohingya population still living in Myanmar, including in camps in the central Rakhine state and in village settings in the north. We also provide healthcare services to ethnic Rakhine people who have been displaced by fighting and live in internally displaced persons camps. 



    What is the current situation of the Rohingya in Bangladesh?

    The Rohingya have very limited opportunities to work, though some find and take the risk of informal work. This renders them dependent on humanitarian assistance. Assistance includes basic food rations, cooking gas, and the shelters that were provided in 2017. It is enough to keep people alive but leaves many Rohingya unable to afford other essentials like clothing, essential groceries, and materials to repair their shelters. This dependence on humanitarian aid also takes away from people’s sense of dignity by limiting their ability to be self-reliant.

    The temporary nature of shelters, often built on slopes, is a high-risk combination. Annual flooding leaves people vulnerable to death, injury, and displacement with recurrent episodes of shelters being washed away.

    Shelters cramped together make tasks like cooking risky. Outbreaks of fires are common. In 2021, around 15 people lost their lives during a massive blaze, 560 people were injured and up to 10,000 families (more than 45,000 people) were displaced.

    There are few education prospects for children, as only primary education is provided by NGOs (non-government organisations) for a few thousand of the children within the entire camp population, meaning many go without. This is a key source of distress for parents, who worry about what the future will hold for a generation of uneducated children, either in Bangladesh or in the event of a return to Myanmar in the future.

    In a study conducted by Doctors Without Borders, we have found that the current conditions of overcrowding, inadequate water supply and poor sanitation in Cox's Bazar camps pose health hazards to the Rohingya people living there.  Read the study here.

    Overcrowding, inadequate water supply & sanitation study at the refugee camps in Bangladesh: A risk to the health of the Rohingya

    What is the current situation of the Rohingya in Malaysia?

    As refugees with UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) cards are not allowed to work legally, many end up in the informal sector doing “3D jobs” (dirty, dangerous, difficult), which expose them to the risk of exploitation.

    Rohingya and other refugees and asylum seekers are also forced to pay the foreigners’ rate at public healthcare facilities, which can be up to 100 per cent more than what a local pays.

    Meanwhile, refugees and asylum seekers without UNHCR documents face the risk of being reported to the immigration authorities and possibly face detention when accessing public healthcare. This is according to a Ministry of Health circular, which obliges medical staff at public healthcare facilities to report undocumented/irregular migrants to the Immigration Department.

    What is the current situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar?

    Rohingya have very limited freedom of movement, and therefore restricted access to work opportunities, education, and healthcare. Individuals living in camps are reliant on humanitarian assistance.

    Doctors without borders mobile staff

    Doctors Without Borders staff on their journey to set up a clinic in Sin Thet Maw village in Paukaw township, 14 March 2022 @ Ben Small/MSF

    Rohingya in Rakhine state struggle to access proper primary healthcare. Due to freedom of movement restrictions, if they require emergency treatment, for many the only way they can be admitted to the hospitals that accept Rohingya is through a Doctors Without Borders' referral. Discriminatory behaviour, including extortion, towards Rohingya, particularly in public hospitals and from state officials, is an additional deterrent to accessing healthcare. They are also segregated to different areas of the hospital.

    With their existence underlined by fear, struggles to afford food, and feelings of hopelessness, this protracted status quo has had drastic consequences on mental health. For those living in the squalid, cramped camps, these issues may be even more pronounced.

    Limited availability of water in the displaced persons camps in central Rakhine and in villages in northern Rakhine, including clean drinking water, puts Rohingya at risk of water-borne diseases and skin infections, particularly in the dry season.

    What does the future hold for the Rohingya?

    Long-term solutions are needed to resolve this long-standing Rohingya refugee crisis. The main problem is the lack of citizenship rights in Myanmar and the recognition of refugee status in Bangladesh and Malaysia.

    For the Rohingya refugees left languishing in Rakhine, Doctors Without Borders is particularly concerned about barriers to access healthcare due to restrictions on their freedom of movement. Humanitarian actors need independent access to assess and respond impartially to health needs.

    Doctors Without Borders believes it is critical that any return or repatriation to Myanmar only occurs if it is voluntary; if the wellbeing of Rohingya refugees is guaranteed; and if the root causes of the violence have been addressed. This means addressing the ongoing discrimination and denial of fundamental human rights.