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More than one million Rohingya people have fled violence and persecution in Myanmar — including nearly 700,000 who crossed the border into Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh,  following targeted attacks against their communities in August 2017.

Living conditions in the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh are dire. Many people lack access to clean water, sanitation, health care and shelter. Outbreaks of multiple vaccine-preventable diseases are springing up among the population.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) remains present on the ground in Cox's Bazar, delivering urgently needed medical care and working to prevent the spread of disease, as we continue to respond to one of the world's most difficult humanitarian crises.

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Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are a stateless ethnic group, the majority of whom are Muslim, who have lived for centuries in the majority Buddhist Myanmar. However, Myanmar authorities contest this. They claim the Rohingya are Bengali immigrants who came to Myanmar in the 20th Century.

Prior to the military crackdown in August 2017, roughly 1.1 million Rohingya people lived in the Southeast Asian country. Described by the United Nations in 2013 as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, the Rohingya are denied citizenship under Myanmar law.  Due to ongoing violence and persecution, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighbouring countries, either by land or by boat, over the course of many decades.

Targeted violence

Entire villages of people fled Rakhine state, Myanmar, after government military operations targeting Rohingya scaled up in August 2017. The government response was in retaliation for a series of attacks claimed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army against police stations and a military base. Rohingya who have arrived in Cox's Bazar, southwestern Bangladesh, have told of homes and villages being burnt to the ground, often with entire families still locked inside. Women and girls have been raped. Men and boys rounded up and shot. Children have been beaten to death.

In December 2017, surveys conducted by MSF in the refugee camps found that at least 6,700 Rohingya — in the most conservative estimations — were killed by violent means in Myanmar between 25 August and 24 September 2017. At least 730 were children under five years of age.

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MSF Canada's Joe Belliveau writing in the Ottawa Citizen: Canada has a role to play in alleviating the suffering of Rohingya refugees

Rohingya refugee crisis: The MSF response

Even before the events of August 2017, MSF was already providng essential medical care for Rohingya communities in both Bangladesh and Myanmar.  When the refugee crisis began,  we significantly scaled up our efforts, and we still remain on the front lines of one of the world's most difficult ongoing humanitarian emergencies. MSF currently manages multiple health posts, primary health centres and inpatient facilities across the Rohingya displacement camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

In addition to treating outbreaks of diseases such as measles and diphtheria, we treat the main complaints of respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases. We also provide mental health services to those traumatized by their experiences, and by June 2019, had provided 31,980 individual consultations since August 2017.

Overall, between the influx of arrivals starting in August 2017 and June 2019, MSF has provided over 1.35 million medical consultations to people in Cox's Bazar.