By Bella DiFilippo*
The migrant crisis in Asia continues to escalate as more tragedies among Myanmar’s ethnic minority population, Rohingya Muslims, are exposed. Since August 25, 2017, more than 519,000 Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine have fled their homes to escape violence and persecution. The mass influx of refugees crossing the border to Bangladesh has caused a humanitarian crisis.
Among fleeing refugees, Rohingya children are at high risk for contracting water-borne illnesses, like cholera. PHOTO: AURELIE MARRIER D’UNIENVILLE | IRIN
Rakhine is occupied by Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. Tensions between the two communities have been dormant for many years, although there have been occasional outbreaks of violence and conflict. However, armed conflict in 2016 erupted between the two communities caused Myanmar’s government to implement martial law and place severe restrictions on the Rohingya population. This action severely limits Rohingya access to health services, education, and other forms of economic activity.
Rohingya refugees report that their homes, crops, and places of worship are being burned to the ground. Evidence and testimonies collected by multiple international agencies from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has led to agencies like the United Nations to call the crisis ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide.
Under martial law, access to townships in Rakhine State is limited. Government approval is required for the entry of humanitarian agencies. Human rights groups maintain concerns for the protection of the civilians remaining in the townships, particularly women and children.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is addressing the crisis through its partnership with Muslim Aid, which is working on the ground to address emergent humanitarian needs of vulnerable Rohingya in Myanmar who have been affected by conflict. Muslim Aid has received permission to enter certain townships in Myanmar for the humanitarian aid purposes of addressing these needs.
Rohingya refugees receive food assistance in Cox’s Bazar, located in Bangladesh. PHOTO COURTESY ACT ALLIANCE AND DCA
With UMCOR funding, Muslim Aid will provide mosquito nets and food packages to 1,025 households that will last for at least six weeks in Ohn Taw Gyi, an IDP camp in Sittwe, Myanmar. UMCOR and Muslim Aid will reach 10,144 vulnerable men, women, and children through this effort. UMCOR is also prepared to provide additional funding and support to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
UMCOR stands in solidarity with United Methodists and partner Methodist agencies, as well as with other international agencies, in responding to this humanitarian crisis. Read the Joint-Global Statement.
Please pray for Rohingya Muslims living in Rakhine and for the refugees in Bangladesh.
Help alleviate human suffering in places like Myanmar and Bangladesh by giving to UMCOR’s International Disaster Response Advance #982450.
*Bella DiFilippo is Communications Specialist from Mission Engagement for Global Ministries.