I will start this paper with an explanation of who the Rohingya are as a nationality, I will then discuss what the humanitarian crisis is and how it began, I will then discuss some of the NGOs that are assisting in this crisis and some of the ways they are helping, then I will come to a conclusion with the effectiveness of the handling of this crisis by those who are in positions of authority.
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Rohingya roots are traced back as far as the fifteenth century when the region was known as the Arakan Kingdom. During and after the early twentieth century, starting with the period that Rakhine was governed by colonial rule as part of British India and even sine while the country was known as Burma, the Rohingya have been treated quite unfairly. As an ethnic minority Muslim society, the Rohingya, practice a Sufi-inflected variation of Sunni Islam. Although they were not living un harassed, before August of 2017, an estimated one million Rohingya were living in the Rakhine State, where they accounted for nearly a third of the population. They differ from Myanmar’s dominant Buddhist groups ethnically, linguistically, and religiously.
Deadly clashes, since 2012, that have occurred between Buddhists and minority Muslims in Rakhine State have driven hundreds of thousands of families from their homes. However, an estimated number of 100,000 and more are surviving in camps on the outskirts of Sittwe, which happens to be the state capital. Not surprising most of these people are Muslims who call themselves Rohingya. According to reports from the UN there is evidence that they discovered that Myanmar’s military engages in incitement to religious intolerance, including summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture. (euronews 2017) Going back as far as the late 1970s discriminatory policies of the Myanmar’s government has been guilty of forcing hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya to escape the injustices and persecutions and flee from the predominantly Buddhist country. Many travelled by land into Bangladesh although others travelled by sea fixated on the destinations of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
In August of 2017 the Rohingya crisis really began, the equipped Myanmar military unleashed what was referred to as a clearance campaign in the Rakhine State this assault was in response to a raid by a Rohingya insurgent group that was immediately labeled as terrorist. The affects of these military strikes led to an evacuation of the Rohingya to Bangladesh and to complaints that security forces had committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes. The security forces of Myanmar asserted they were carrying out a crusade to reinstate stability in the country’s western region. However even with this assertion, the United Nations observed that the Myanmar forces exhibited genocidal intent, and at that time the international pressure on the country’s elected leaders to end the tyranny continues to rise among other countries and NGOs.
The security forces of Myanmar have been accused of killings, rape and torture against the Rohingya. Even with these allegations the Myanmar civilian government still fought against any fact-finding mission that were requested by the UN and at the same time the government also denied journalist and more importantly aid groups to Rakhine. This humanitarian crisis created because of the violence that flare up in August of 2017, had evolved into an atrocity, by May of 2018 there were more than 900,000 refugees that had immigrated to Cox’s Bazar. The atrocity wasn’t just the number of refugees, but also the fact that it became the fastest increasing refugee crisis in the world forcing this area in Bangladesh to become one of the densest areas in the world with mostly traumatized women and children.
More than two years after the ferocious acts of violence, there are more than 740,000 Rohingya that have been forced to flee the country of Myanmar, but more horrible than this is the fact that almost one million men, women, and children are living in perilous conditions in Bangladesh in what is considered the world’s largest refugee camp. The International Rescue Committee and other international aid organizations working in Rakhine have strongly denounced the continuing violence and encouraged unrestricted access to safely deliver lifesaving essential services in all affected communities. The IRC is one of the largest health care providers in Rakhine, now offering more than just health care the IRC expanded their services to include reproductive healthcare, hygiene services, clean water, and protection of female members. Another NGO that is working tirelessly in Myanmar is Save the Children, they work with UNICEF on the Myanmar Education in Emergencies Sector to address the education component of the humanitarian crisis affecting the Rohingya, but only in Myanmar. Malnutrition is a terrible problem especially for children and unfortunately it is getting worse, sixty percent of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children. More troubling than this statistic, according to the United Nations Children Fund, Unicef, about twenty-one percent of children below age five will suffer from malnutrition despite the humanitarian aid that they provide. The last NGO that I will talk about is Doctors Without Borders. The Doctors Without Borders different teams conducted more than 1.3 million medical consultations between August of 2017 and June of 2019 while they are ongoing with their treatment of ten of thousands a month. These teams are also in addition working to improve water and sanitary services while they are also making 193 million liters of chlorinated water available to around 78,000 people who didn’t have it.
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It could be argued that the Rohingya people are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. In a move that many around the world thought to be correct, The United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution that strongly condemned Rohingya Muslims rights abuses along with other minority groups in Myanmar, including arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and deaths in detention.
The General Assembly also went as far as to approve a resolution, which also calls on Myanmar’s government to take pressing measures to tackle incitement of hatred against the Rohingya and other minorities in the states of Rakhine, Kachin and Shan. Although, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, they do often reflect the opinion of the world. The sad commentary and where I feel that the international community totally missed the mark is because even though there has been widespread condemnation of the Myanmar government's actions there have been no actions to sanction the country even in the instance where the UN Security Council placed an appeal to Myanmar to stop the violence still no sanctions were imposed. I believe that there will be no foreseeable solution for the plight of the Rohingya, first because any workable resolution to the Rohingya crisis will require speak to the root causes of the crisis, which would have to include acknowledgement of Rohingya citizenship in Myanmar and of the basic rights of the Rohingya people. These are steps that must be taken by the authorities in Myanmar. The international communities will also have to hold the military of Myanmar responsible for their actions and the government will have to allow the UN the ability to check on the city of Rakhine.
- “Myanmar Humanitarian Crisis.” 2019. ACFID. June 28. https://acfid.asn.au/content/myanmar-humanitarian-crisis.
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