So. I’m a British doctor currently on my first mission for MSF, working on a HIV/Primary Health Care project in Northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. My medical career so far has been pretty directionless, having left the UK after finishing my internship/foundation programme to work in South Africa and then Bangladesh.
MSF seemed like the next natural step. I didn’t however expect to be writing this b**g- I can’t even bring myself to say the word. However, as much as I’ll be ridiculed by mates back home, who don’t need any more ammunition, I’ve managed to be convinced that it’s a good way of spreading the word about the neglected issues in this part of the world, and show my parents that I actually do some work occasionally.
The political history and intercommunal conflict that has engulfed Rakhine state in the last 30 years is very interesting, I encourage everyone to read about the issues facing this neglected part of the world.
In June 2012, deadly intercommunal clashes in Rakhine state, Myanmar, triggered an official state of emergency. An estimated 75,000 people were displaced and many houses were burned down. Another outbreak of violence in October worsened the crisis, forcing 40,000 more people from their homes. Many ended up living in makeshift camps without sufficient shelter, sanitation, food or healthcare.
Emergency teams from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) were able to provide basic medical care in 15 of the largest camps. They treated people suffering from skin infections, worms, chronic coughs and diarrhoea, and made sure those with life-threatening conditions were referred to hospitals.
MSF has a long experience – nearly 20 years – of working in the remote and neglected Rakhine state, offering basic and maternal healthcare and treatment for HIV and tuberculosis (TB).
Malaria is endemic in the region. Teams have treated hundreds of thousands of people from all ethnic groups, including the Rakhine community and the Muslim minority population known as the Rohingya. Insecurity, delayed authorisation and repeated threats and intimidation by a small and vocal group of the Rakhine community have hindered MSF’s work. With access curtailed, MSF was able to treat only 50,000 people between June and December, many of whom were living in camps in Maung Daw, Sittwe and Pauk Taw townships. Many thousands more suffered without being able to obtain the treatment they urgently needed.
MSF currently has projects in the north and east of Rakhine State, offering a wide range of services including primary health care, HIV, TB and Malaria clinics and mental health.