Rakhine’s Threadbare Health Service Overwhelmed by Trauma Cases

By NORA 26 May 2023

Storm-hit communities in northern Rakhine state need urgent medical aid for both physical and mental trauma after Cyclone Mocha left a trail of destruction in western Myanmar on May 14.

Grieving families who lost their loved ones, homes, or belongings in the storm are suffering post-traumatic stress disorders including emotional instability and depression, according to a doctor from a volunteer group.

Volunteer medics provide treatment for people affected by cyclone Mocha in Rakhine state. / Myitta Yaungchi Facebook

“Treating victims, we found that about 80 percent of their conditions are caused by mental suffering. They lost everything and now have to start their lives from zero again,” he said.

Junta media said 145 people were killed in the storm, including 117 Rohingya in Rakhine State, which bore the brunt of the cyclone. However, local community leaders near Sittwe told Agence France-Presse that initial counts showed more than 200 Rohingya had died in their areas alone.

A Rohingya resident of Thet Kal Pyin displacement camp in Sittwe said residents need medical attention for physical and mental problems.

“A man from our camp had to be chained down when he lost his sanity after his wife and children were killed in the storm. So, we need physical and mental support for people whose lives were devastated by the cyclone,” he said.

The Rohingya population in Rakhine displacement camps have limited access to healthcare facilities.

A mobile clinic of nine doctors aided by nurses arrived from Yangon last week to treat Rohingya in the displacement camps, a source from Thet Kal Pyin Camp said.

Around 75 percent of patients it treated were diagnosed with mental disorders, according to local sources.

The mobile clinic saw at least 600 patients per day for five consecutive days before returning to Yangon. Another team of medics is expected to be sent to the camps next week.

“Yesterday, they saved a child who had a puncture wound that had gone untreated for several days. The child would not have survived without their efforts,” a local source said.

Meanwhile, Rohingya communities in the storm-affected camps are still living without proper shelters or healthcare facilities, leaving them exposed to health risks.

“The weather is burning-hot in the daytime. We have nowhere to go when it rains at night. Some people are also suffering skin infections due to the lack of clean water and poor hygiene and sanitation,” the source said.

A Rohingya camp resident said a local state healthcare facility is open 24 hours but cannot handle the surge in patient numbers since the storm.

“Some of those injured people won’t go to the clinic because they are traumatized and grieving after losing their loved ones,” he said.

In Rathedaung and Pauktaw townships, residents are prey to diarrhea due to a lack of clean water after their ponds were flooded with seawater during the storm.

“Help hasn’t arrived yet. We desperately need drinking water and rice. Some people have to drink salty water because there is no other option,” a resident of Myin Gan Chaung village in Rathedaung said.

Two girls died during the storm in Myin Gan Chaung, where the cyclone destroyed 260 houses.

He added that villagers have to travel about one and half hours by boat to reach the nearest healthcare facility, in Rathedaung town.

Local sources say healthcare facilities are scarce in the remote coastal areas of Rakhine, which was ravaged by heavy fighting between junta troops and the Arakan Army from 2019 to 2022.