Dr. Ambia Perveen (Rohingya activist & ERC lobby member)
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I take this opportunity to thank the organizers of Oslo Conference to end Myanmar’s decades-long persecution of Rohingya; especially, Dr. Zarni for inviting me to speak on the crucial matter of decades of abysmal persecution of Rohingya people, and particularly its implications on public health and day to day lives. As I am a professionally working in medical field, today I would like to clearly highlight more on some serious and urgent health implications of Myanmar’s decades-long persecution of Rohingya. I shall begin stating a quotation from Kosovo refugee:
“A massacre is not necessarily committed only with knives”, but it is also in other forms of persecution which would lead to a full-fledged genocide, that is unfolding in Myanmar on Rohingya community.
Please kindly allow me to provide a brief introduction on the ethnic background of Rohingya. They have been recognized as an ethnic minority by four successive governments after the independence in 1948 from British colonial rule. Those days, many ethnic Rohingya have been elected in the parliament, and also few were appointed as cabinet ministers. After 1962 military coup by general Nay Win “a master plan of eradicating Rohingya from Burmese soil has been gradually and systematically carried out”. The military and its xenophobic scholars drafted a discriminatory citizenship law in 1982, which makes us stateless in our own ancestral land. United Nations describes: “Rohingya people are the most persecuted minority in the world.” Human Right Watch has stated that Rohingya are suffering from crimes against humanity.
The Burmese government’s systemic and institutionalized persecution includes denial of our ethnic identity and access to health care, murder, rape, looting, and many more heinous and unimaginable forms of torture. They have also put restrictions on movement, education, marriage and religious practices.
Now ladies and gentleman, let me take you to public health implications of Myanmar’s decades long persecution of Rohingya. Here, I would like to briefly highlight on the situation which occurred after the pogrom in June 2012. Rohingya people are living in overcrowded conditions in IDP camps with lack of, “adequate supply of clean food and water, proper hygiene and sewage systems, well- equipped clinics, pharmacies, and secondary and tertiary hospitals.” Rohingya people are in open prisons in every part of Arakan with lack of proper measures to control outbreaks of infectious diseases, and there are no vaccination programs for children.
Public health implication: Malnutrition
Malnutrition is wide spread among Rohingya in Arakan, particularly among children. Recently International Business Times covered Rohingya children, “more than 1,000 Rohingya children are severely malnourished in internally displaced camps.” The reason leading to malnutrition is directly proportional to the Burmese government blockage on aids, restrictions on NGOs in Arakan state and removal of MSF (Doctors without borders) from Arakan state. I would like to continue my presentation with some of the cases, which came to the Doctors for Humanity (D4H) for medical advice. D4H is international Rohingya doctors group that volunteers for the cause of health of Rohingya in Rakhine state. These are two of the many cases of severely malnourished children:
Public health implication: Denial of Emergency Health Care Access
Rohingya has no access to hospitals, polyclinics and GPs as their movement is very much restricted. Even in major emergency cases, they cannot gain access to secondary and tertiary hospitals in major cities. I would like to present two more emergency cases which we came across.
Public health implication: Lack of infectious disease control
Lack of infectious disease control is another fatal factor among Rohingya community. MSF was the only health care NGO, which provides health care services including treating infectious disease. Unfortunately in 2014, MSF was forced to shut down its projects in Arakan state after which all their anti-HIV, anti-Malaria, Anti-TB programs had to be ceased. It leads to exposure to highly drug resistant infectious diseases. Let me present you one example:
Public health implication: Psychological Trauma
There are many cases of psychological disorders and mental trauma. Depression and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) among Rohingya people are widespread and common. PTSDs are very psychologically and emotionally debilitating. Some victim of gang rape by military personnel are stigmatized and isolated, and they received no counseling whatsoever. One of the many examples is:
A glace to Doctor-Patient Ratio, Illiteracy & others
The National Average of coctor-patient Ratio is 1:700-800; whereas for Rohingya it is 1:13000. Population Control Bill (2-Child Policy) is only subjected to Rohingya and Rohingya needs special permission for marriage which, without large bribe, is not possible.Due to systematic control on Rights to Education, now the adults Illiteracy rate is over 90% among Rohingya. Mortality rate for children under 5yrs is twice as high as national average.
Public Health Implication & intent to destroy
The crucial element of the genocide can be viewed as intent to destroy a community based on the following: access to medical and health care education are denied to Rohingya students, kicking out existing international NGOs and humanitarian workers (Mar 27’14), no medical or health care workers in IDP camps, movement to seek emergency health care are severely restricted, access to all health care facilities are systematically denied
What can international community do?
Recognizing slow burning genocide as what it is. As a short-term measure, Myanmar government must be pressured so that access to NGOs & INGOs working on humanitarian aids in IDP camps & other parts of Arakan is restored; and restriction of movement is lifted. As a long-term measure, health care facilities must be provided for Rohingya as in other parts of the country, and access to medical and health care education for the Rohingya students must be reassured. In addition, Myanmar government must co-ordinate with international community with field expertise in human capital development in regards to Rohingya people and ensure security of livelihood and fundamental human rights so that Rohingya people can live in Myanmar as a “respected global citizen”.
Thank you all your kind and keen attention!!!
Dr. Ambia Perveen is a consultant Pediatrician in Sankt Marien Hospital in Dueren, Germany. She is passionate Rohingya activist and European Rohingya Council lobby member