DHAKA, BANGLADESH: Doctors Without Border has urged Dhaka to reconsider its ban on providing aid to Myanmar's Rohingya refugees, saying the humanitarian consequences of the decision will be "devastating".
Bangladesh this week ordered three global charities including France's MSF and Action Against Hunger (ACF) and Britain's Muslim Aid to stop providing aid to Rohingyas who cross the border to flee persecution and violence in Myanmar.
It has accused the organisations of serving undocumented Rohingya refugees, alleging that medical, food, drinking water and training facilities run by the charities are encouraging an influx of Rohingya to the country.
The NGO Affairs Bureau, which is a wing under the prime minister's office, accused MSF of "damaging the image of Bangladesh by running negative news in the international media" about difficult conditions faced by the Rohingya.
The MSF said it was "shocked" at the order and said around 100,000 people risk losing access to lifesaving healthcare in the southeastern Cox's Bazaar district as a consequence.
"To be forced to leave our patients is unthinkable and the repercussions life threatening," said the MSF operational manager for Bangladesh, Mr Chris Lockyear. "We are astounded at being requested to cease our medical activities and deprive people of lifesaving services. We can only hope that the Bangladeshi government will re-consider," Mr Lockyear added.
MSF has been running a health centre in Cox's Bazaar since 1992, which provides comprehensive medical aid to some 5000 people — both Rohingyas and locals — every month, just under half of whom are children under five years.
The charity estimates that 27-30 percent of children living in Cox's Bazaar's Kutupalong makeshift camp, home to unregistered Rohingya refugees, are malnourished and are facing a "humanitarian emergency".
"The humanitarian consequences of this decision will be devastating, essentially removing the basic means of survival for tens of thousands of people, both Rohingya refugees and the host community," MSF said.
Speaking a Bengali dialect similar to one in southeast Bangladesh, the Rohingya people are Muslims seen as illegal immigrants by the Buddhist-majority Myanmar government and many of Myanmar's citizens. They are viewed by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.
The government says some 300,000 Rohingya Muslims are living in Bangladesh, the vast majority in Cox's Bazaar, after fleeing persecution in Myanmar. About 30,000 are registered refugees who live in two camps run by the United Nations. In recent weeks, Bangladesh has turned away boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya fleeing the violence in Myanmar despite pressure from the United States and rights groups to grant them refuge.
Myanmar security forces opened fire on Rohingya Muslims, committed rape and stood by as rival mobs attacked each other during the recent wave of sectarian violence, New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
The authorities failed to protect both Muslims and Buddhists and then "unleashed a campaign of violence and mass roundups against the Rohingya", the group said in a report.