What is the Rohingya refugee problem

Access to health for Rohingyas

In the Kutupalong-Balukhali Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, the largest in the world, our teams provide basic medical, reproductive and sexual health care and are committed to combating gender-based violence.

Providing access to health and responding to suffering

In Cox’s Bazaar, in the Kutupalong-Balukhali camp, where 600,000 Rohingya refugees live, Médecins du Monde Switzerland offers an appropriate response in terms of basic health care, sexual and reproductive health and the fight against gender-based violence. For Médecins du Monde and its partners, improving access to medical care and strengthening the health care offered in the camp is an absolute priority given the precarious conditions and alarming situation.

Nothing could have prepared me for the extent of the crisis and suffering that I saw today in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh. Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, July 2018

Through a strong local partnership with the Bangladeshi NGO Friendship, Médecins du Monde Switzerland promotes health promotion, prevention and high quality health services. Building local capacity is important to ensure that improved access to health care for Rohingya refugees is real, sustainable and effective.

The activities support two health posts in the refugee camp as well as mobile medical teams. 4,000 consultations per month are carried out in the two health posts. Almost 60% of patients are women and more than 25% are children under 5 years of age. The mobile teams visit 10 to 15 families every day.

The exodus of the Rohingya

The UN regards the Rohingya as "the most persecuted minority" in the world. Discriminated for decades and stripped of their Burmese nationality in 1982, these stateless people are indeed victims of genuine persecution, what the United Nations calls ethnic cleansing. Almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine State in Myanmar (formerly Burma) since August 2017 after Burmese security forces carried out “cleanups”. Many of them are women and very young children.

Refugee testimonies are overwhelming evidence of the atrocities committed by the Burmese military during these purges and during the October 2016 campaign. The crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingyas include massacres and murders, gang rape and other sexual violence, looting, deportation and the burning of hundreds of villages. The violence has also resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people from other ethnic minorities. As for the Rohingyas remaining in Burma, in addition to systematically violating their rights to nationality, freedom of movement, access to health, education and livelihood, they continue to suffer from serious food insecurity and threats.

Because of its speed and density, this refugee crisis has become the largest refugee crisis in the world. Local communities in the Cox’s Bazaar area, which is already high in poverty, have been hard hit. The people and government of Bangladesh had generously welcomed more than a million refugees and opened their borders to them, at a time when refugee protection was deteriorating and many countries were putting up barriers to evade the refugees' requests for help and their duty to protect under international law , was extraordinary and especially commendable.

The Kutupalong Balukhali Camp

The Kutupalong Balukhali Camp, which houses more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees, will be named the largest refugee camp in the world in 2018. In the district of Cox’s Bazaar in the extreme south of Bangladesh, the refugees are crammed into makeshift shelters. Since their forced resettlement after their exile in 2017, living conditions have remained extremely precarious. The lack of shelter, sanitation, food, water, medical care, overcrowding and the risk of contracting infectious diseases make this camp a dizzying humanitarian emergency area.

Médecins du Monde Switzerland works in camps 7 and 11 in Kutupalong / Balukhali. There are around 75,000 people in the camp, more than half of whom are under 18 years of age.

Return of Rohingya refugees to Burma: Dangerous and premature

Médecins du Monde has joined 42 NGOs to warn of an immediate return of refugees to Burma, a return that would be dangerous and premature.

Humanitarian aid and civil society organizations present in the Burmese state of Rakhine and in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh have expressed serious concerns about the return of the refugees planned for mid-November, as reported on October 30, 2018 by the joint working group of the Burmese and Bangladeshi governments was announced.

The governments of Burma and Bangladesh had assured the refugees and the international community that repatriation would only take place if it was voluntary, safe and dignified. We urge them to honor their commitments.

The United Nations has repeatedly stated that the situation in Burma at this time is not conducive to return. As the refugees continue to flee the country, it would be premature to return at this point in time. Involuntary return of refugees to a country where their lives and safety remain in grave danger would be a violation of the fundamental principle of non-refoulement.