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A cry for help: Malaysia scales up humanitarian aid for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Racheal Ngu, 20 Oct 2017
Malaysia will be building a 50-bed field hospital at Rohingya refugees’ camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. An initial effort by the Malaysia government for humanitarian aid to the Rohingya refugees, Mercy Malaysia is also geared up to provide health relief services for the Rohingya refugees for at least six months.

Currently, the humanitarian crisis enters its second month, with the priority needs at the refugee camps in Bangladesh shifted to Water, Sanitary and Hygiene (WASH), shelter, health and protection. President of Mercy Malaysia, Datuk Dr Ahmad Faizal Mohd Perdaus said that improper planning of water points and latrine sites could result in cross contamination – leading to water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea.

Malaysia to staff field hospital at Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees

During a visit to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh recently, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that the medical corp of the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) will be building a 50-bed field hospital for the Rohingya, at a cost of RM3.5 million. However, the location of the hospital and its stationing period are yet to be decided.

“We have obtained the permission of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina and this permission was given to me and the MAF and Ministry of Health by the Bangladesh High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur. At the moment, the government is waiting for the procedure set by the Bangladesh government to allow the construction of the hospital,” stated Dr Ahmad Zahid at a press conference.

The 50-bed field hospital will be “fully operational within one month”, after completion of the procedure “set by the Bangladesh government to allow construction of the hospital,” according to Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Ahmad Zahid.
The 50-bed field hospital will be “fully operational within one month”, after completion of the procedure “set by the Bangladesh government to allow construction of the hospital,” according to Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Ahmad Zahid.

He further commented that the hospital will be “fully operational within one month”, after completion of the procedure. Currently, 60 medical staffs (medical specialists in various fields and officers) under the MOH will be posted at the hospital.

In response to the postings of medical staffs at the refugee camp hospital, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam was reportedly asserting that, “We have made all the necessary preparations with the assistance of various agencies among others the Malaysian Armed Forces and the National Security Council. It (the field hospital) will also have nurses and other support staff.”

“The ministry is only waiting for an appropriate time to depart to the country,” he added.

By end of August, more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh during a violent crackdown in Myanmar – also known as the “clearance operations” among Myanmar militants. These are “coordinated and systematic” attacks launched by Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state security forces and Buddhist mobs against the Muslim-majority refugees, according to a report by the United Nations (UN) human rights office.

The attacks came with the intent of driving the population out of Myanmar and preventing them from returning. Hence, the UN considered the Rohingya ethnic group as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world – they do not belong to their homeland, as well as often subjected to arbitrary violence and forced labour in Myanmar. In addition, the actual number of refugees has yet to be determined – nonetheless, many parties claim it has exceeded one million people.

Relief effort still in need of volunteers among healthcare professionals

Dr Ahmad Zahid mentioned that Malaysia was among the first few countries to respond to the refugees’ plight, by sending food and other necessities to the refugee camps three times so far. However, he asserted that Malaysia will “remain committed to helping the Rohingya”, as “the situation involving the refugees, including the lack of amenities, is still unsatisfactory.”

Dr Ahmad Zahid meeting some of the refugees at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo credit: Bernama/The Star Online
Dr Ahmad Zahid meeting some of the refugees at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo credit: Bernama/The Star Online

Therefore, Malaysian volunteers, especially healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, and other medical staffs) are urged to extend help to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, as stated by the deputy prime minister.

Nonetheless, the president of Mercy Malaysia had earlier expressed that relief agencies were struggling to meet the refugees’ needs due to a lack of resources and challenges with aid coordination. “The crisis is expected to last for the next six months, and this gives us need for long-term response planning,” he added, further asserting that Mercy Malaysia aimed to send at least 50 to 100 people during this initial six-month period of humanitarian aid.

Dr Ahmad Zahid echoed that medical personnel who wish to help should register with the NSC for smooth coordination.

“All assistance offered, including material given by donors and services by Malaysian volunteers, will be coordinated by the National Security Council (NSC), which will ensure that the aid reaches the target groups here,” he highlighted. MIMS

Read more:
3 Questions: Mr Walter Leung on providing emergency support at mobile health clinics in Bangladesh
Singapore hospital volunteers growing in numbers – taking on more roles and responsibilities
3 doctors who go out of their way to help the underprivileged
Healthcare professionals: 5 volunteering opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region

Sources:
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/10/17/help-out-at-refugee-camps-volunteers-urged/
http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/malaysian-health-ministry-doctors-to-staff-rohingya-hospital-in-bangladesh#jhy2CAWQRHjQxVe8.97
http://www.theborneopost.com/2017/10/17/malaysia-to-build-field-hospital-at-rohingya-refugee-camp-in-bangladesh/
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/10/03/mercy-malaysia-to-give-extend-health-relief-services-for-rohingya-refugees/
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/team-myanmar-crackdown-suggests-policy-instill-fear-50408944
http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/medical-team-ready-for-deployment-at-field-hospital-in-bangladesh-says-subr#3xLjPvWFkRtLz2Gt.97
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