Tuesday, June 27, 2017
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Thousands of pregnant women left without healthcare in Rakhine

An estimated 7600 pregnant women have been left without access to basic or primary healthcare services for almost two months in the northern Rakhine townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung since the outbreak of violent conflict in early October.

According to a November 29 statement from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), many of these women were "left helpless to bleeding and infection" without access to skilled care and live-saving medicine, placing them at risk of life-long disability or death.

The UNFPA's Statement on Safeguarding Women and Girls in Myanmar’s Rakhine State called for the provision of healthcare and other essential services to all women in Rakhine, irrespective of their religious beliefs or ethnic identity.

It also called for women in conflict areas to be protected from all forms of violence, including sexual assault, and stated, the "health, protection and hygiene needs of women and girls in northern parts of Rakhine state are acute."

Other organisations working in the troubled state agree that stronger healthcare provisions are vital. 

"Women, girls and children are in great need of healthcare services across the whole state of Rakhine, not only in conflict areas," said Daw Hla Hla Yee, a lawyer from the Youth Legal Network. 

The Myanmar Times was unsuccessful in its attempts to contact the Ministry of Health for comment on the UNFPA's statement.

Access to the northern part of Rakhine has been severely restricted in the wake of lethal raids on border guard posts starting on October 9 and subsequent Tatma­daw “clearance operations”. 

Humanitarian programs providing healthcare services, food, and education have been suspended since the outbreak of the violence, but have been since partially resumed.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar, Ms Yanghee Lee, has criticized authorities for placing the region in “lockdown”.

In a November 22 statement, Ms Lee said a government-led two-day visit to the area in early November by a UN official and nine ambassadors had produced only limited results in terms of addressing the humanitarian crisis.

“In my address to the General Assembly last month, I reiterated the need for humanitarian access to resume as soon as possible so that the needs of those affected and displaced are met, particularly the most vulnerable,” Ms Lee said in her statement.

In their own statement, the UNFPA said that they "stand ready to distribute life-saving medicines and supplies for safe pregnancy and childbirth, as well as contraceptives, female hygiene and dignity kits, HIV post-exposure drugs, post-rape treatments and psychosocial support" once they are able to obtain access to the conflict-ridden region.