Medical Teams works where we are needed most. Often, that requires us to be flexible and quick to respond — disasters can be unpredictable and sudden. The situation that Rohingya refugees find themselves in is just such a disaster.
That is why we have launched an emergency response to help them. Learn more about the crisis and how YOU can help.
Who are the Rohingya?
The Rohingya are a stateless minority Muslim group, primarily from Rakhine State, Myanmar. Because of their status, they’ve been denied access to education, citizenship, employment, and even health care. Nearly one million Rohingya have been displaced from their homes, with more than 600,000 of them fleeing across the border to Bangladesh since August. Most of the refugees are women and young children.
Why are the Rohingya fleeing?
On August 25, 2017, violence erupted in Rakhine State, Myanmar, forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people to leave their homes immediately in search of safety. Entire villages have been attacked and burned, with survivors fleeing on foot for days through jungle, over mountains, and across rivers.
Once they cross the border into Bangladesh, there is little relief. Makeshift settlements and host communities in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, are completely overwhelmed by the influx of refugees. There is a dangerous lack of food, clean water, and medical care. The temporary shelters the Rohingya refugees live in are set up on the side of muddy hills — a heavy rain could wipe them away completely.
What are the most urgent needs of Rohingya refugees?
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who has spent most of his life working as a humanitarian around the world, described the needs of the Rohingya in this way:
“They had to flee very sudden and cruel violence, and they have fled with nothing. Their needs are enormous – food, health, shelter. They have absolutely nothing. I have hardly seen in my career people that have come with so little. They need everything.”
The lack of clean water and sanitation is especially dangerous. The conditions the Rohingya are living in greatly increase the probability of disease outbreaks like cholera and Diphtheria, which would threaten thousands of lives.
Monsoon season is underway in Bangladesh and the threat of cyclones and mudslides is an urgent focus for our teams on the ground. We are working to reinforce our clinics to withstand extreme weather, and equipping our staff to meet the potential increased demands for medical care.
What is Medical Teams International doing to help the Rohingya?
Medical Teams responds to disasters where the needs are urgent, where we have access, and where our resources can bring healing when there is no other option.
Working in collaboration with partners on the ground, Medical Teams is treating Rohingya refugees across two settlements. Initially, we helped prevent the outbreak of infectious disease through community outreach activities connected to a temporary Diarrhea Treatment Center. Now, our volunteers and staff provide loving care to patients at a Primary Healthcare Clinic that is open every day, and through four Mobile Medical Units that rotate in the camps. By the end of the year, we plan to have six health facilities serving the Rohingya in Bangladesh.
Many refugees are dedicated to caring for their neighbors, so we train them to be Community Health Workers. In addition to teaching about hygiene and sanitation, and monitoring for disease outbreaks, they serve as a vital link between the critically ill and their access to emergency care, referring patients with urgent needs to nearby health care facilities. This is an especially vital role given the outbreak of Diphtheria in the camps.
Is Medical Teams sending volunteers to Bangladesh?
Yes! We’ve sent a steady stream of volunteers — serving in both medical and non-medical roles — to serve Rohingya refugees since September, 2017. In fact, we’ve already had more volunteers serving the Rohingya refugees than have served in any other Medical Teams international crisis response before. We are continuing to send teams as the needs grow.
We are currently recruiting for nurses and doctors with international or disaster experience who can deploy for a minimum of eight weeks to Bangladesh. If you meet our Bangladesh team qualifications, and/or are interested in being added to our disaster response volunteer roster, please apply here.
Is Medical Teams sending medical supplies or other donated goods into Bangladesh?
There are strict regulations regarding the import of medical or other supplies into Bangladesh. Therefore, our response will not include sending hygiene kits, medical supplies, or other products into the country. Any necessary supplies will be procured locally, through our trusted partners.
What can I do to help the Rohingya refugees?
First, please pray for safety and healing — both in body and mind — for these people who have suffered unimaginable horrors. Pray for peace in their homeland, and that their needs would be met quickly.
Consider making a donation to help our teams carry out the mission of serving the Rohingya in Bangladesh. Your gift will be put to work to provide loving care to heal and save lives.
If you are a doctor or nurse with international experience, and able to deploy for eight weeks, please consider volunteering with our Bangladesh team.