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© Greg Constantine

Myanmar

In 2018, the Myanmar government continued to refuse humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas and forcibly displaced people, thus limiting where we could deliver medical assistance

Ongoing military operations in Rakhine State have resulted in more than 745,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh since late August 2017.

Since 25 August 2017, MSF has treated more than 1.3 million patients in the Cox’s Bazar area.

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Those arriving in Bangladesh have shared stories with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) about their villages being systematically raided and burnt by the Myanmar military.

Mob groups are targeting the Rohingya and women and children are being raped and killed.

It is one of the largest displacements of people in recent memory, in such a short period of time.

Recent surveys conducted by MSF in refugee settlements in Bangladesh estimate that at least 9,000 Rohingya died in Myanmar's Rakhine State between 25 August and 24 September 2017.

As 71.7 percent of the reported deaths were caused by violence, at least 6,700 Rohingya, in the most conservative estimations, are estimated to have been killed, including at least 730 children below the age of five.

rohingya crisis background >

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A Rohingya in Central Rakhine, Myanmar

“We hold our frustration inside because we cannot speak out”

Suleiman is an MSF watchman living in Nget Chaung village, central Rakhine State. He, along with 9,000 other Rohingya Muslims here, is denied freedom of movement, forcibly confined to the village and the adjacent internment camp, with poor living conditions and very limited access to basic services.

Suleiman stands by the entrance to his home in Nget Chaung village.

The restrictions on movement for the Rohingya in central Rakhine State followed outbreaks of violence between the Rohingya and Rakhine communities in 2012. Today, some 128,000 Rohingya and other Muslims are forcibly detained in camps or camp-like settings in Central Rakhine.

“I was born in Nget Chaung village and my entire family lives here. My wife and I have eight children and I work as a watchman for MSF’s medical clinic. MSF arrived in Nget Chaung just after the crisis in 2012; they started working here just seven days after we were attacked.

I was working in another village nearby when the crisis began in 2012 – I came home quickly and things were tense. One night we woke up at about two in the morning; we could hear people outside.  We got dressed silently and crept outside.

It was dark and we couldn’t see well, but there were a lot of people who weren’t from our village; we knew we had to get away. We used the houses for cover, ducking behind things so that we wouldn’t be seen, then we ran.

"I wish people could look at us and see us for who we are"

SuleimanMSF watchman

We ran a long way away and found places to hide. When we looked back at the village, we saw big fires. We decided to stay where we were until early the next morning, then we walked back. When we got there, many of our houses were gone – they had been burnt, my house included.

For a long time after that we lived in tents nearby. It took almost two years to rebuild everything.

There aren’t any real opportunities for employment here; there are hardly any fish to catch either. Because there’s so little trade, we can’t buy the things we want. We can only buy things like fish or prawns, though sometimes people from nearby Rakhine villages come and sell us food.

People here are sad, they are frustrated that they can’t go anywhere or do anything more. We hold our frustration inside because we cannot speak out – there are no opportunities for that. We cannot even travel to the next township, so people keep everything inside, bottled up.

The Rohingya are like other ethnicities in Myanmar – we just want to live here. We just want our freedom, to have our own livelihoods and to sleep at night without worrying. The longyi (a skirt-like piece of cloth worn by women and men in Myanmar) is a symbol of Myanmar, and all the ethnicities of Myanmar have their own pattern, but not us. We wear the longyi, but we have no pattern. We own nothing. I wish people could look at us and see us for who we are. I just want people to know who the Rohingya are.”

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