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Published on 04 December, 2012

The Rohingya suffer Ethiopian-like starvation

Burma (MNN) — It's a situation that is being ignored by the international media and governments around the world.

According to a team member with Partners Relief & Development (PRAD), sectarian violence broke out in Arakan State, Western Burma in May 2012 between the Buddhist Rakhine people and the predominately-Muslim Rohingya.

Despite recent assertions from the Burma government that the situation was back to normal, violence continues to occur, and thousands of people have been displaced. The UNHCR has said that about 80,000 people have been displaced in and around the Sittwe and Maungdaw by the violence. More recent reports  from Partners staff on the ground in Arakan State suggest that the number is actually much higher. Some suggest that it may be as high as 200,000.

Why are they attacking each other? That team member, who wishes to remain anonymous for security reasons, says, "The Rakhine people consider the Rohingya illegal immigrants living in their land, even though many of the Rahingya have lived there for many generations and have no other home."

While they have hated one other for decades, the most recent violence took place after a Rakhine girl was assaulted. "The Rakhine retaliated, violence broke out, Rohingya villages were burned to the ground, and people were brutality murdered."

The government stepped in and separated the Rohingya into camps outside the city. "The problem is that in order for the Rohingya to be moved to the camp, they have to sign a statement declaring that they are an illegal immigrant. So, the Rohingya are unwilling to do that."

The PRAD staff member says, "The people who are not willing to sign those statements are fending for themselves and setting up shelters along the road; and the population is swelling. It's becoming a humanitarian crisis, and we are seeing small children and infants dying on a regular basis."

"The crowd of those needing care is growing every day and pressing in upon us. We need help. More teams need to come. More governments of the world need to speak loudly against what is happening here. More donations are necessary to provide any relief," observes a PRAD staff member who is currently in Sittwe, Burma.

The staff member says PRAD has been there serving for about a month. "During that time, we have not seen any other NGOs or groups come and work alongside us, or even on their own."

He says it's unlike any relief situation he's ever worked in. "The biggest difference is the total absence of hope. There's a real hopelessness in this situation. It's not like a natural disaster where the situation can return back to normal very soon."

He suggests this situation reminds him of the famine in Ethiopia.

PRAD hopes that they're Christian foundations and testimony can change that. "We are trying to be a light in a very dark place. We need a lot of prayer, we need financial support to keep doing what we're doing, and we need other groups and other individuals to come alongside us and help in this effort."

PRAD is calling on international aid organizations and governments to quickly engage in the humanitarian work needed in Arakan State. If more aid doesn't arrive soon, there will be widespread deaths, especially among children.

To help PRAD financially, or to partner with them, click here.

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