Sovereign Military Hospitaller
Order of St John of Jerusalem of
Rhodes and of Malta


Refugee Crisis in South-East Asia: thousands of Rohingya flee


Malteser International provides relief to refugees in Indonesia and Myanmar

Thousands of members of the Muslim Rohingya minority from Myanmar, as well as people fleeing from poverty in Bangladesh, have attempted to flee by sea to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. A great number of those have found themselves in distress at sea in dangerously overcrowded boats, often for weeks.

The Order of Malta’s worldwide relief agency, Malteser International, is on the scene: “The refugees stranded in the vicinity of our project in Banda Aceh are living in the confined space of a temporary refugee camp, sleeping on tarpaulins in overcrowded tents without enough to eat,” reports Cordula Wasser, head of the Asia team. “They urgently need blankets and mattresses, as well as mosquito nets, food, clean drinking water and latrines; to allow them to recover their strength and prevent the spread of malaria and other infectious diseases.”

Over a million Rohingyas live in Myanmar. Stateless and without rights, they are the subjects of discrimination in the principally Buddhist country. According to estimates by the United Nations, over 120,000 Rohingyas fled from religious persecution in Myanmar in the last three years alone. During the first three months of this year, at least 25,000 sought refuge by heading for South-East Asia. Malaysia and Indonesia have declared themselves ready to temporarily accommodate and provide care for some 7,000 boat people, as long as there is international support in place for them to do so. Myanmar also signalled its readiness to participate in humanitarian relief measures at a refugee summit in Thailand, at which 17 states and many international aid organisations participated.

For the Bangladeshi refugees in Myanmar, the emphasis is on medical assistance. “Many of them have been injured and are malnourished, or they are suffering from diarrhoea and skin diseases,” said Malteser International’s Cordula Wasser, “We are bringing the especially critical cases to the nearest hospital with the ambulance which we have stationed at the camp.”

In Banda Aceh in Indonesia, the Order of Malta is providing 433 refugees in a small camp with hygiene kits, mosquito nets, feminine hygiene articles, as well as special food for children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. In Maungdaw, Myanmar, the Order of Malta is also providing emergency medical relief at a camp containing 228 refugees, mostly from Bangladesh. Further aid measures are being prepared in cooperation with local partner organisation ‘Hati Nurani’.

Malteser International has been working with the Rohingya minority in the north of Rakhine State since 2003 to provide basic medical care.

Photos: Malteser International