Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) yesterday said very little progress has been made to address the lack of legal status for the Rohingya in the region, or to address the underlying causes of Rohingyas’ exclusion in Myanmar.
A marginalised ethnic minority from Rakhine state, Rohingyas have in recent decades been subject to mounting targeted state exclusion and persecution, it said, adding that two years ago, news of Myanmar’s campaign of violence against Rohingyas dominated the headlines.
MSF Emergency Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar Arunn Jegan said he first came to Cox’s Bazar in June 2017, at a time when thousands of Rohingyas were already in Bangladesh from previous waves of targeted violence.
Even then, he said, the needs were massive. “I returned as project coordinator that August, as hundreds of thousands more people arrived. It was obvious the Rohingyas were fleeing violence -- in a two-week period between August and September 2017.”
At the border crossings, he said, they saw Rohingyas arriving with burns, gunshots, lacerations, and smoke asphyxiation. “The trauma was visible on people’s faces and bodies.”
To date, no meaningful solutions have been offered to the Rohingyas, who have been pushed to the margins of society in virtually all the countries they have fled to.
In Bangladesh, over 912,000 Rohingyas still live in the same basic bamboo structures as when they first arrived, face travel and work restrictions, and remain wholly reliant on humanitarian aid, MSF said.
With children unable to attend formal schooling, future generations are deprived of an opportunity to improve their situation.
Many of the illnesses MSF treats at its clinics in Cox’s Bazar are a result of the poor living conditions that Rohingyas endure, with poor access to clean latrines or water.
MSF continues to treat tens of thousands of patients a month, performing over 1.3 million consultations between August 2017-June 2019.
“Two years on, there are now better roads, more latrines and clean water points in and around the camps. There’s more sense of order. But conditions in the camps remain precarious and big questions about people’s futures are still unanswered,” says Jegan.
Jegan said, “When I think of the future for the Rohingyas, my biggest hope is that they’re able to return home safely. Until then, I hope they’re afforded greater self-sufficiency, education rights, as well as the legal recognition they deserve. If these things don’t happen now, I fear the Rohingyas will be in the same situation in another two years, only with even fewer services available to them. Any decrease in aid should only come in tandem with growing self-sufficiency.”
Rohingyas likewise remain in limbo in Malaysia, where they have been fleeing to over the past 30 years.