Burma allows partial resumption of MSF operations

04-Mar-2014 Intellasia | AFP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Myanmar has allowed Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to resume some of its work in the country, two days after the government forced it to close its clinics, the medical aid group said.

But the group warned of a mounting humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, where it is still unable to operate, leaving thousands of mainly Rohingya Muslims entirely cut off from healthcare.

MSF, which closed its clinics across Myanmar on Friday after an order from the government, said it would resume HIV and tuberculosis programmes in several parts of the country including the commercial hub Yangon.

“Whilst we are encouraged by this and will resume these activities for now, MSF remains extremely concerned about the fate of tens of thousands of vulnerable people in Rakhine state who currently face a humanitarian medical crisis,” the group said in a statement late Saturday.

MSF, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 and has operated in Myanmar for 22 years, said it would continue discussions with the government over its activities in western Rakhine state, where it provides medical services “regardless of ethnicity, religion or any other factor”.

The organisation has faced accusations of giving preferential treatment to the stateless Rohingya in Rakhine, where festering sectarian tensions exploded into bloodshed in 2012, leaving scores dead and 140,000 people displaced, mainly Muslims.

MSF provides primary healthcare services in several remote areas near the border with Bangladesh where Rohingya communities have long lived under severe restriction of movement and are largely unable to access state facilities.

– Pressure after ‘mass killing’ –

The aid group has faced increasing pressure in recent weeks, including from street protests, after it said it treated injured people in its clinic near the site of a reported mass killing of Rohingya.

The episode was strongly denied by the government.

The Myanmar ministry of health issued a statement on Sunday saying MSF services in Rakhine would be “temporarily suspended” because of issues around “public acceptance”.

It said the government would consider whether to resume the group’s work when Rakhine “sees peace and stability”.

Myanmar’s health service has been left in tatters after decades of underfunding during a military dictatorship that was replaced by a quasi-civilian regime in 2011.

MSF is the largest provider of treatment for HIV and Aids in Myanmar, with over 30,000 patients across the country.

MSF also has programmes for the treatment of tuberculosis and malaria as well as reproductive health services.

The United States Embassy in Yangon called for “unfettered” humanitarian access in the former junta-ruled nation Friday.

The United Nations in January said it had “credible information” of a series of attacks in a remote part of Rakhine State that left dozens of men, women and children dead – with the alleged involvement of the police.

The government has launched its own investigation into the incident, which is due to release its report imminently.

Myanmar’s government considers the estimated 800,000 Rohingya in the country to be foreigners, while many citizens see them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and view them with hostility.



Category: Regional

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