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Rohingya Refugees Face Health Crisis As Myanmar Cuts Off Aid

By Andre Malerba
Getty Images

SITTWE, BURMA - May 6, 2014: Some 150,000 Rohingya IDP (internally displaced people) are currently imprisoned in refugee camps outside of Sittwe in Rakhine State in Western Myanmar. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the primary supplier of medical care within the camps, was banned in March by the Myanmar government. Follow up attacks by Buddhist mobs on the homes of aid workers in Sittwe put an end to NGO operations in the camps. Though some NGOs are beginning to resume work, MSF remains banned, and little to no healthcare is being provided to most Rohingya IDPs. One Rohingya doctor is servicing 150,000 refugees with limited medication. Several Rakhine volunteer doctors sporadically enter the camps for two hours a day. Births are the most complicated procedures successfully carried out in the camps, requests to visit Yangon or Sittwe hospitals for life threatening situations require lengthy applications and are routinely denied. Malnutrition and diarrhea are the most widespread issues, but more serious diseases like tuberculosis are going untreated and could lead to the rise of drug resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB).

Rosheda, 20, holds her malnourished child, 2 months old, in front of her hut. She is too poor to afford enough food and the child will likely die without aid in Sittwe, Burma. (Photo: Andre Malerba/Getty Images)
Roshida Moud, 12, is held by his father as he explains that his son was hit in the head with a stone during the Rakhine violence in 2012. Roshida Moud has been unable to function by himself since the injury. (Photo: Andre Malerba/Getty Images)

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