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    Doctors Without Borders' Unyielding Commitment to the Rohingya

    For decades, Doctors Without Borders has been at the forefront of addressing the Rohingya refugee crisis with unwavering dedication. Our mission commenced in Bangladesh in 1985, and over the years, we have significantly broadened our medical humanitarian efforts to encompass the Rohingya diaspora in neighboring countries, forming an integral part of our comprehensive strategy to tackle the crisis.

    At present, our projects span across Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Malaysia, where we tirelessly deliver essential medical care to the Rohingya population in their most critical times of need.


    In response to the surge in Rohingya population since August 2017, Doctors Without Borders has significantly expanded its operations to meet both immediate and long-term health needs. With a dedicated team of over 2000 staff, we provide specialized healthcare services to address the extensive health requirements of over 1,000,000 Rohingya refugees residing in the camps, along with an increasing number of patients from the host community.

    Our comprehensive services encompass general healthcare, treating conditions like scabies, respiratory tract infections, and water-borne diseases. We also offer specialized care for chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, emergency services for trauma patients, and comprehensive women's healthcare, including support for survivors of gender-based violence (SGBV) and mental health care. Additionally, our initiatives include the enhancement of water and sanitation facilities within the camps.

    What we do in Bangladesh


    Bridging healthcare gaps, Doctors Without Borders extends medical services to refugees and asylum-seekers through a dedicated clinic in Butterworth, Penang, and mobile clinics in remote regions of Penang and Kedah, including detention centers. 

    What we do in Malaysia


    Doctors Without Borders extends vital medical assistance to the Rohingya population residing in Myanmar, specifically in camps located in the central Rakhine state and in village settings in the north. Our healthcare services also cater to ethnic Rakhine individuals affected by conflict, residing in internally displaced persons camps. Explore our comprehensive medical support for Rohingya communities and displaced populations in Myanmar.

    What Doctors Without Borders do in Myanmar


    What are the challenges faced by Doctors Without Borders?

    The Rohingya refugee crisis has become a dire humanitarian situation and while Doctors Without Borders' efforts are instrumental in providing medical care and essential assistance, our response is not without its formidable challenges. Among the challenges are: 

    Overcrowded Conditions in Refugee Camps

    Refugee camps in Cox's Bazar present significant challenges due to limited infrastructure, impacting healthcare, sanitation, and essential services for the displaced population. A 2023 MSF survey reveals a decline in wash infrastructure maintenance, with only 49 per cent having access to a continuously available water source. Reduced soap rations contribute to a surge in scabies cases, with over 70,000 patients treated by Doctors Without Borders in the first half of 2023. WHO reports 40 per cent community prevalence, rising to 70 per cent in sub-camps. Mass drug administration depends on robust water and sanitation intervention.

    Accessing healthcare is challenging, with patients enduring long walks, even when injured or sick. Checkpoints exacerbate difficulties, causing delays and harassment.

    Healthcare Infrastructure Strain

    The existing healthcare infrastructure faces significant strain due to a large influx of refugees, leading to challenges from high patient volumes and infectious diseases. Limited resources further compound these difficulties.

    Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have emerged as a pressing concern, with over 140,000 NCD patient consultations conducted by Doctors Without Borders in Cox's Bazar from 2017 to October 2022. Since 2021, NCD consultations have surged to 58,000, remaining high in 2022 at 62,000.

    Moreover, our camp emergency rooms regularly treat patients in advanced stages of chronic diseases, necessitating stabilization and ongoing treatment. Monthly referrals to secondary care pose challenges, with patients directed to a hospital over six hours away due to the shortage of closer beds.

    Disease Outbreak Risks

    The densely populated living conditions within refugee camps elevate the vulnerability to disease outbreaks. Overcrowding intensifies the difficulties in managing and halting the transmission of infectious diseases.

    In the context of a pandemic, such as the ongoing situation with COVID-19, the crowded living conditions assume heightened significance. This environment becomes particularly conducive to the rapid spread of the virus, necessitating enhanced measures for disease control and prevention.

    Mental Health Challenges

    Mental health challenges among the displaced population add complexity, requiring a holistic healthcare approach. Various factors, including a lack of livelihood opportunities, anxiety about the future, poor living conditions, barriers to accessing basic needs, and increasing insecurity and violence, contribute to a devastating impact on the mental well-being of Rohingya refugees.

    This mental health burden is compounded by the trauma experienced when fleeing violence in Myanmar. MSF has observed a surge in cases of anxiety and depression among the refugee population. Many refugees report physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue, often attributed to stress.

    Notably, since 2021, the number of suicide attempts treated in Doctors Without Borders hospitals in Bangladesh has doubled, indicating a critical need for focused mental health support and intervention. Addressing these multifaceted mental health challenges is essential for providing comprehensive care during the crisis.

    Financial Constraints

    Financial constraints further amplify the challenges faced by Doctors Without Borders. Limited funding and resources hinder our ability to scale up medical services to meet the demands of the crisis adequately.

    Diplomatic and Political Challenges

    Beyond immediate humanitarian concerns, the Rohingya crisis poses diplomatic and political challenges. Navigating through political sensitivities and ensuring the safety and security of our teams require a delicate and nuanced approach.

    Sustainable Solutions for a Protracted Crisis

    As a protracted crisis, the Rohingya situation demands not only immediate relief efforts but also sustainable, long-term healthcare solutions. Striking a balance between addressing urgent health needs and developing strategies for ongoing challenges is a crucial task.

    In the face of multifaceted challenges, Doctors Without Borders remains steadfast in its commitment to providing emergency medical care, addressing public health concerns, and advocating for the rights of the displaced Rohingya population. Our work emphasizes the critical importance of addressing broader social, economic, and political factors contributing to the perpetuation of the crisis.