MSF Resumes Work in Arakan State After Govt Ban

By Paul Mooney 22 January 2015

RANGOON — An international medical group has resumed work in an area of west Burma after a nine-month government ban on its presence in one of the poorest parts of the country over allegations of bias.

Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland (MSF) said Tuesday it was allowed to resume work on Dec. 17 in Arakan State, where it has provided health and emergency assistance since 1992.

The government ordered the international medical group out of Arakan in February 2014 after the group said it had treated people it believed were victims of sectarian violence.

The government denied an attack had taken place and accused MSF of being biased in favor of members of the minority Muslim Rohingya community.

Aid groups have drawn the ire of some Buddhists who accuse them of favoring the Rohingya. Humanitarian groups reject accusations of bias in favor of Muslims.

Almost 140,000 of Burma’s 1.1 million Rohingya, most of whom of whom are stateless, remain displaced after deadly clashes with Buddhists in Arakan in 2012.

The withdrawal of the agency, which had operated in the area for more than 20 years, left half a million Rohingya without access to reliable medical care.

“We hope to continue this dialogue with the authorities to ensure that those who need it most in Rakhine [Arakan] State are able to access the healthcare they need,” Martine Flokstra, MSF Burma operational adviser in Amsterdam, said in a statement.

The organization said that since restarting its clinics last month, it had done more than 3,480 consultations, mostly with people with diarrhea, respiratory infections, and chronic conditions.

MSF is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS care in Burma, currently treating more than 35,000 HIV patients nationwide, as well as 3,000 people for tuberculosis.