CWR Partner Helps Lead Medical Response to Myanmar Refugee Crisis

Photo courtesy of Medical Teams International

CHICAGO, IL (October 20, 2017) — Covenant World Relief has sent funding to partner Medical Teams International (MTI) to help provide care to the more than 580,000 Rohingya people who have overwhelmed refugee camps in Bangladesh as they flee ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

The crisis erupted in late August, and MTI has been providing medical assistance in the Kutupalong Refugee Camp since September.

“We have treated men, women, and children whose illness has caused mild to severe dehydration,” said Sharon Tissell, a Covenanter and nurse working with MTI in the camp. “Some require only a few hours of oral rehydration solution. Others require large volumes of IV fluids, antibiotics, and close monitoring for several days. The bright spot is that if we can begin treatment early, the patients respond quickly. The children we catch early arrive lethargic and critical but within a couple hours are bright-eyed and smiling. It’s really remarkable. Without treatment these same cases will not survive.”

“Acute diarrhea is a leading cause of death in children under five years old,” said Bruce Murray, a Medical Teams International doctor.

But the worst could still be coming. “The development of epidemics such as measles and cholera in refugee camps is our biggest fear,” Murray said.

MTI is working with local Bangladesh medical workers and volunteers to teach hygiene protocols that will reduce outbreaks. Volunteers will visit each family in their camp area monthly to teach hand washing and safe food practices and also screen for diarrheal diseases so they can be treated early, Tissell said.

The United Nations has called the Rohingya exodus the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world. Many Rohingyas have seen their homes burned and family members killed.

The Rohingya are a stateless, mostly Muslim minority group who have lived in the Myanmar state of Rahkine where they have faced years of persecution. Deep-seated tensions between the majority Buddhist population there and the Rohingya have led to deadly violence in the past.

The crisis was ignited on August 25 when Rohingya militants attacked several police outposts in Myanmar and killed 12 members of the security forces. However, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said the military’s response has been “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

To give to CWR general disaster relief funds, click here.


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About the Author

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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