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 launched an emergency response and we continue 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. 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 2017. Most of the refugees are women and young children.

Why did the Rohingya flee?

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.

Even across the border in Bangladesh, there has been little relief. The influx of refugees overwhelmed services in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, affecting both refugees and Bangladeshi host community members. 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.”

Refugees still lack consistent access to clean water and sanitation services. Though primary health care services are available, it can be difficult for refugees to access more specialized care, like emergency obstetrics, and secondary facilities. Children still suffer from acute malnutrition at alarming rates.

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.

Bangladesh experiences an intense monsoon season each year. The threat of cyclones and mudslides is an urgent focus for our teams on the ground. We have reinforced our clinics to withstand extreme weather, worked with communities to develop disaster preparedness plans and equipped 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 in Kutupalong refugee camp, the largest refugee camp in the world. 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 care to patients at several health facilities that are open every day.

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 that helps prevent disease outbreaks in the camp.

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, so most of our necessary supplies will be procured locally. With COVID-19 impacting global supply of critical protective equipment, we have also been working to procure internationally and import these supplies.

What can I do to help the Rohingya refugees?

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.