Flashback of the 38th Global Studies Conference at UNO: my experience in refugee camps of Myanmar (Burma)

       There was an overwhelming dismay from the audience when Dr Nada Alnaji showed us a photo of two Syrian kids — one of them was 5 — playing in a dirty temporary settlement. Those kids should never have seen or been in such unfavorable environment, instead they were supposed to be studying at schools. Listening to her presentation about Syrian refugees living in Lebanon made me recall my memory working with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders at the western border of Myanmar.

Wednesday market in Inn Dinn Village, Maung Daw

Wednesday market in Inn Dinn village, Maung Daw

          Everyday I had to deal with a particular group of people called Rohingya or stateless Muslim people. Following the 2012 inter-communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims, a lot of internal displacement occurred across the western part of Rakhine State. Since then many basic social services for the IDPs have been deprived of to an extent that people without citizenship can no longer get access to higher education after high school. Pre-existing poor healthcare facilities became worse and the trust or friendship between the two involved communities vanished. Even though many international non-governmental organizations are helping the local community to develop, little progress can be found as the root cause of the inter-communal tension is not addressed. In fact, there are extremists making this seemingly hopeless condition more devastating without looking for a solution to peaceful co-existence. In this particularly vulnerable situation, mental well-being of the community is highly overlooked. Health, by definition, does not necessarily mean physical soundness only; the overall state of mind also plays an important role. The lack of social security and loss of faith among each other become a big barrier to giving healthcare services. One patient told me that he was afraid to go to the hospital and would rather die at home.

I strongly support Dr Alnaji recommendation to address the often underestimated mental health issue for all so-called refugees around the world. If only we can understand that they are also human beings, the world will become a better place to fit in.

Dr Thein (Youth Doctors)


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