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Beginning on 25 August 2017, a concerted campaign of violence by the Myanmar authorities against Rohingya people caused them to flee en masse across the border to Bangladesh. Since the campaign began, over 700,000 people have fled.
Those arriving in Bangladesh have shared stories with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) about their villages being systematically raided and burnt by the Myanmar military.
It is one of the largest displacements of people in recent memory, in such a short period of time.
The Rohingya are a stateless ethnic group, the majority of whom are Muslim, who have lived for centuries in the majority Buddhist Myanmar (also known as Burma).
However, Myanmar authorities contest this. They claim the Rohingya are Bengali immigrants who came to Myanmar in the 20th Century.
Described by the United Nations in 2013 as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, the Rohingya are denied citizenship under Myanmar law. They lack basic services and opportunities including freedom of movement, healthcare, state education and civil service jobs.
Due to ongoing violence and persecution, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighbouring countries either by land or boat over the course of many decades.
In October 2016, violence in northern Rakhine state forced 60,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
Humanitarian organisations are still blocked from accessing and operating in northern Rakhine. The Government of Myanmar has decided to work with only a select group of organisations in providing aid.
We are urging the Myanmar government to allow unfettered access to Rakhine State to ensure the impartial delivery of aid to those in need.
These refugees join hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya who fled violence in previous years and were already living in difficult conditions in Bangladesh.
Combined with the existing Rohingya refugee population, more than 900,377 refugees are now in Bangladesh.
Living conditions for the refugees need to be massively improved with a particular focus on water and sanitation, shelter and reducing population density.
Monsoon rains have already begun to damage the camps and due to deforestation in the camp, there is a high risk of landslides.
In the current context of dense population and poor water and sanitation conditions, there is a high risk for the spread of disease. Already MSF has had to deal with the outbreak of diphtheria and measles in the camps.
But with this recent and unprecedented influx of people, we have been forced to significantly increase our capacity to respond, launching additional emergency projects in Cox’s Bazar.
As of March 2018:
We have treated more than 4,678 people for diphtheria in the Cox’s Bazar district as of the end of February, most of them aged between five and 14 years.
During the peak of the outbreak, we ran three dedicated health facilities. Diphtheria can result in a high number of deaths without the anti-toxin, but only a limited number has arrived in Bangladesh.
Between September and the end of February, we saw 4,370 cases of measles across all the MSF health facilities. The number of cases is now decreasing although the outbreak is far from over.
Last updated: 15 May 2018