Health of Rohingya Muslims
Beginning in August 2017 and continuing to the present day, an estimated 24,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim ethnoreligious group have been murdered by Myanmar militia forces for cleansing purposes. Members of Myanmar’s army and police forces have raped around 18,000 girls and women. A total of approximately 225,000 homes have burned down or undergone vandalism since the beginning of this crackdown on the Muslim minority group of Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Since then, an influx of Rohingya Muslims has entered the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh in attempts to escape the inhumane living circumstances of the Rakhine State. By February 2018, around 688,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh. They joined close to 212,000 Rohingyas that settled in Bangladesh before the exodus that began six months prior. One area of concern is the health of Rohingya Muslims.

Even after leaving the region where they experienced persecution, the quality of health of Rohingya Muslims has not been ideal. This is due to the frequency in which they travel into Bangladesh, as well as the large groups they move within.

Health Concerns for Refugees

One major, ongoing concern for the health of Rohingya Muslims is the fact that they have limited access to preventative health care services. These services become necessary when a mass group of individuals resides in a singular location, like a refugee camp, for an extended period. According to an Intersector Coordination group situation report, rape survivors among Rohingya Muslims have not received adequate clinical treatment for harms and diseases they may now carry.

There is also a lack of preventative and diagnostic services for blood-borne diseases like HIV and tuberculosis. The World Health Organization found in 2017 that, though both Bangladesh and Myanmar had comparatively low rates of HIV cases, Rakhine state in 2015 had an exceptionally large number in comparison to the rest of Myanmar. This, paired with the fact that Myanmar armed forces raped a large number of women and girls, illustrates a need for more thorough diagnostic procedures for blood-borne and sexually transmitted diseases.

Around 42,000 pregnant women and 72,000 lactating mothers require quality care assistance, as of October 22, 2018. Around 3,000 of those women had entered health facilities to receive treatment for their symptoms of malnourishment.

Medical Advancements and Humanitarian Aid

While refugees have limited access to health care, medical advancements have occurred to address as many of these refugees’ needs as possible. The World Health Organization reported on March 18, 2019, that a new software known as Go.Data will now allow for more efficient investigations into disease outbreaks, “including field data collection, contact tracing and visualization of disease chains of transmission.” On February 28, 2018, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre donated $2 million to the Sadar District Hospital in Cox’s Bazar. This will help strengthen the medical facility in the region of Bangladesh that includes a dense population of Rohingya refugees.

One more great stride in improving the health of the Rohingya Muslims: In the year following the August 2017 mass migration,  155 new health posts emerged, supplying for around 7,700 individuals per location. This could not have been possible without the partnership of the Bangladesh government, the World Health Organization and other groups supporting the rights of the Rohingya.

Continued support for and increased awareness of the persisting struggles of the Rohingya Muslims will do incredible things in ensuring improvement to their quality of life.

– Fatemeh-Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr

King Salman CenterSaudi Arabia, the Arab world’s leader in humanitarian aid, recently launched the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Works, or KSC. The center, which is named for the Gulf state’s new monarch, is expected to revolutionize the Saudis’ current system of aid distribution.

The Saudi government announced the creation of the KSC in May, to little press coverage. Many hope that the new aid body will improve the way Saudi Arabia responds to humanitarian crises in the region and around the globe.

Last year alone, Saudi Arabia spent more than $736 million on aid, making the country the eighth largest humanitarian donor in the world. However, the Saudi aid system has been widely criticized as lacking coordination and professionalism. Without a central agency to manage aid, experts had difficulty tracking how and where money was donated.

The bureaucratic nature of the system also resulted in a large waste of resources. Saeed Hersi, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Gulf, says that in the past, competing bodies within the Saudi government have complicated the aid process. Although several organizations will still control the distribution of funds, Hersi explains, “Now with the center we have a centralized point of contact and reference.”

The Saudi government has ambitious goals for the center. King Salman Center spokesman Rafaat Sabbagh reported that the program’s officials are eager to learn from the experience of United States Agency for International Development and the UK’s Department for International Development, or DFID. He also says that the center will have some autonomy from the monarchy, and in some cases will work independently to provide relief.

“Our work is not only for one country,” Sabbagh explains. “Whenever there are people in need, especially with natural disasters, we will be there.”

A source from the United Nations reports that the structure of the KSC could look similar to that of USAID, with various departments for monitoring, evaluation and research.

The Saudis have been lavish donors in the past, but Sabbagh says that the government wants to end its reputation as the humanitarian world’s “cash cow.” The KSC will provide new structure to the country’s aid delivery and help the government channel more of its funds through its own organizations, rather than UN-led programs.

In the coming months, the King Salman Center will oversee the distribution of $274 million in aid to Yemen. Though the Saudis pledged the quarter of a billion dollars in April, little has actually been delivered. While the U.N. expected to receive the money directly, the launch of the KSC has complicated the process. Recently, the Saudi government announced that its funds would be split between nine different U.N. agencies and managed by the newly-created KSC. The kingdom has also added other terms to the aid that one U.N. official called “unacceptable.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, estimates that more than 21 million Yemenis are still in need of humanitarian assistance. Still, some NGOs have refused to accept Saudi aid altogether, claiming that the Gulf state’s blockades and bombing are the cause of the humanitarian crisis. Only the day before the Saudis pledged their millions to Yemeni aid, Human Rights Watch reported that a Saudi airstrike killed 31 civilians in a dairy factory.

In a July 7 meeting with Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, Royal Court Advisor and Supervisor of the KSC, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees praised the new program for its work with Yemeni refugees. Yet for now, many in the international community remain skeptical of whether the Saudis will follow through on their promises of aid.

Caitlin Harrison

Sources: IRIN News, IRIN News 2, Vice News
Photo: IRIN News

In May 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a new, unified government humanitarian aid organization called the King Salman Humanitarian Center (KSC) — named after the nation’s new monarch.

Saudi Arabia is eighth largest aid donor in the world and spent over 736 million dollars in humanitarian aid in 2014. The new center has the potential to transform how Saudi Arabia donates, organizes and distributes millions of dollars in emergency aid.

This administration transformation was not widely reported, though the scale of this change is immense. A source in the UN reported to IRIN that he believes the King Salman Humanitarian Center will be Saudi Arabia’s version of USAID and that it will establish multiple departments such as monitoring, evaluation and research.

Rafaat Sabbagh, a KSC spokesman, elaborated on the new organization’s goals. “We are very ambitious… We are only one month and a half old. But at the same time we are very keen to learn to learn from the experience of DFID [in the UK] and USAID. Our work is not only for one country. Whenever there are people in need, especially with natural disasters, we will be there.”

Before the creation of KSC, Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian aid was notorious for being “highly unpredictable, hard to navigate, and – some argued – incoherent,” writes IRIN. There were often miscommunication errors between different branches, causing confusion and unnecessary overlap.

The Center plans to take a more direct, hands-on approach to its funding techniques, spending on local organizations rather than large international organizations.

The country is known for its large donations or powerful financial potential. For example, in 2008, it gave 500 million to the World Food Program in one large payment. In 2014, it also gave 500 million to help the Iraq crisis.

Donations like this are expected to be approved and processed by the KSC now, and some worry that Saudi Arabia’s involvement with UN aid programs will decrease.

These worries are not unfounded. Saudi Arabia has become increasingly frustrated with the United Nations in the past few years. “In late 2013, it rejected a seat on the UN Security Council, condemning ‘double standards’ in Syria and wasteful use of resources,” says the IRIN.

KSC spokesperson, Sabbagh, said to IRIN that the KSC will “avoid the bureaucracy that some organizations are suffering from” and will be “more flexible” than other organizations. Some believe this is a subtle critique of the United Nations.

At the same time, Sabbagh maintains that he wants to continue to work with the UN. “We are very keen to build a partnership [with the UN]. At the same time we have our own networks. Our work through the UN partnership can be complimentary,” he tells IRIN.

If the King Salman Humanitarian Center is successful, Saudi Arabia’s donations will become much more impactful, strategic and effective. The Center’s first project is to disburse 250 million dollars in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is involved actively in the civil war.

Aaron Andree

Sources: Aawsat, Irin News
Photo: Today Online