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MSF says it is prevented from treating Arakan victims

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says its medical teams are being harassed and prevented from helping victims of the sectarian violence that has plagued Rakhine State for several months.

“That we are prevented from acting and threatened for wanting to deliver medical aid to those in need is shocking and leaves tens of thousands without the medical care they urgently need,” said MSF operations manager Joe Belliveau.

In a statement released on Monday, November 5, MSF said that in the past few days its medical teams in Rakhine State, working together with the government and other international and national humanitarian organizations, have assessed the medical needs of thousands of people newly displaced by violence near the state capital of Sittwe and its surrounding townships.

“These joint teams have provided some food, water and emergency health assistance, but having lost their homes and resources many people are extremely vulnerable and their health status could deteriorate quickly,” the statement said.

MSF said its longer-term programs covering healthcare, malaria and HIV/ AIDS have also been affected, and that many of the programs have been suspended since violent exchanges erupted in June between Rakhine Buddhists and the Muslim Rohingya community in Burma’s western region.

“In Rakhine State, MSF has been running one of its largest medical programmes worldwide for nearly 20 years,” the Geneva-based group said. “Since 2005 MSF treated more than a million people for malaria, and provided primary healthcare, TB and HIV/AIDS treatment, and maternal health services. [MSF’s] patients hail from all ethnic and religious groups in Rakhine. But since the outbreak of violence in June, MSF is operating at a fraction of its capacity due to access limitations largely stemming from threats and intimidation. Tens of thousands of long-term residents, previously receiving medical care, have gone without care for months.”

Commonly known in English as “Doctors without Borders,” MSF is one of several international organizations, including UN agencies, which have been accused by some Rakhine leaders of favoring the Rohingyas in their distribution of aid, a claim the groups deny.

“The animosity is rooted in a small minority of the population but a very vocal one,” Belliveau told AFP. “They must accept that a very basic medical act is not somehow supporting the other side.”

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 07 November 2012 15:18 )  

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