Burma (MNN) — The clock is ticking for Burma’s Rohingya people. Buddhist mobs forced a UN aid group out of Arakan state–also called Rakhine state–in late March, following the removal of a Buddhist flag from outside the Malteser International offices in Sittwe.
“We…avoid any form of political, religious, or ethnic partisanship,” said the Secretary General of Malteser International on the group’s Web site. “That is the reason why our program coordinator has removed the Buddhist flag which, in the local context, might be seen as a symbol for a political positioning.”
According to reports, over 170 UN and international NGO staff members were evacuated from Sittwe during the last week of March. Now the government won’t let them back into Burma, leaving Rohingya refugees without food, water, or medical care.
“Every day that goes by, there is an increased chance of people dying because they don’t have access to medical services,” the spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) said Tuesday.
“The clock is ticking.”
Partners Relief and Development can still get into Arakan state, and they’re trying to double their ministry efforts. Since severe ethnic clashes between the Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya began in 2012, Partners has bringing physical and spiritual care to those most in-need.
Denied citizenship and access to the most basic necessities, Burma’s Rohingya people often have the most desperate needs.
In late February, Burma’s government kicked Doctors Without Borders out of Rakhine state for treating Rohingya patients. Smaller aid groups were the only source of medical help following Doctors Without Borders’ removal, but most of them have been temporarily shut off from Arakan state.
Critical supplies like food, water, and shelter have also been eliminated with the removal of aid groups. In an April 2 report, Reuters quoted humanitarian workers as saying refugee camps around Sittwe would run out of water within 10 days.
On Monday, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reports, the British Foreign Office Minister “summoned the Burmese Ambassador to the [UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office] to urge restoration of humanitarian access.”
However, another NGO official familiar with the situation told DVB that Burmese officials weren’t moving on the Arakan crisis until after the Burmese New Year recess, which ends April 21.
While they still have access, Partners is increasing their efforts to help the Rohingya people. They’re mobilizing food, water, shelter materials and medical care to refugee camps through Arakan state.
Pray that help will come soon for the Rohingya. Pray that this hardship creates opportunities to share the Gospel.