The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: One Year On

In August 2017, the Myanmar military began a widespread campaign of persecution and violence against the Rohingya ethnic minority in Rakhine State.

An estimated 10,000 Rohingya were killed during the violence

Thousands more were injured and sexually assaulted, prompting an estimated 700,000 Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh as refugees.

In the aftermath of the violence, the displaced Rohingya refugees began living in makeshift refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. One year on, these camps are still housing thousands of people in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions that are extremely detrimental for their long term health.

Due to the sheer number of people and the speed at which they arrived, the camp’s infrastructures remain poor and quality healthcare is hard to come by. That’s why since the beginning of the crisis, Doctors of the World Japan has been working to strengthen access to healthcare and resilience support for Rohingya refugees living in the camps.

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Doctors of the World Japan’s activities currently reach an estimated 2,177 households in the Kutupalong refugee camps.

Our team is also training 40 young adults from the Rohingya community to take part in community outreach and health awareness projects. These young adults will specifically focus on connecting children and teenagers in need to vital health services.

Doctors of the World Japan, together with the 40 trainees will work on providing information to the community on a variety of health issues such as the importance of vaccination, how infectious diseases are transmitted, family planning, pregnancy, childbirth, and disaster preparedness.

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Our project also has a significant focus on mental health support. Many of the Rohingya now residing in Bangladesh have experienced or witnessed extreme violence and are coping with serious mental health consequences such as emotional trauma and PTSD.

They are also struggling with the chronic stress of living in the camps for prolonged periods of time. For many, it is unclear when or even if, they will be able to return to their homes in Myanmar and repatriation negotiations continue to stall.

Around 30% of the Rohingya community are children under 5, and dozens of babies are born every day in camps that are dangerous and unhygienic. 

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We spoke with Ms. Kwihyang Ku, the Project Coordinator for our Bangladesh project about the conditions in the camps. 

“For many Rohingya, this is a place of relief that it is protected from violence, however they cannot escape from the aftereffects of the violence and trauma they witnessed in Myanmar.

Even in this physically distant land, the persecution they underwent in Myanmar is still very present in their memory. About 60 babies are born every day, but most refugees cannot conceive of a future for their families. As negotiations continue, their anxiety grows. Yet, they keep smiling and keep kindness in their heart, and that makes us strong.”