CCOUC Lunch-Time Seminar – Public Health Emergency in Bangladesh: Stateless Rohingya in Dire Straits

In a lunchtime seminar organised by CCOUC on 2 November 2017, CCOUC team member Mr Cheuk Pong Chiu introduced the current public health crisis among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Rohingya people is a Muslim minority group residing in Rakhine state in Myanmar, whose citizenships are denied by the Myanmar government. Violence beginning on 25 August 2017 has triggered a massive influx of Rohingya Muslims from across the border – an estimated 509,000 people have arrived in Bangladesh in a month to flee from violence and persecution in Myanmar. As of 1 October 2017, the estimated figure has jumped to 809,000. The Rohingya population in refugee camps and makeshift settlements are highly vulnerable and now reliant on humanitarian assistance for food, shelter, health and other basic necessities.

Mr Chiu’s talk began with his first-hand experience working as the Nurse Activity Manager with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to provide medical humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. He described the medical needs of the Rohingya population and the challenges he faced in meeting those needs. Mr Chiu also highlighted different aspects of public health emergency and their implication for the population, such as the lack of adequate water and sanitation, prevalence of mental distress and spread of communicable diseases. He closed the seminar with an appeal to the participants to understand the humanitarian crisis of Rohingya population and speak out for them.

Overall, the sharing was very well received by the participants who came from a wide range of disciplines. They found it an invaluable opportunity to learn from a frontline practitioner in the field of disaster and medical humanitarian response and to understand and analyse the issue from a public health perspective.