By: MaryAnn Placheril
Bordering India and China, Myanmar is a mainly Buddhist country with a sizable Muslim minority, the Rohingya. However, the government of Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, leaving them stateless. For decades, Buddhists have systematically oppressed the Rohingya, but this oppression has recently been taken to the extreme. The Rohingya are now being forcibly removed from the country and killed, while their property is seized and villages burned. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has even called the situation a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The Rohingya who escape prosecution, are fleeing to neighboring countries such as Bangladesh. But the refugees face many troubles during their journey, which continue to compound on the violence they’ve already experienced. This crisis, stemmed from hatred and violence, led to a health crisis, particularly for children. The U.N. estimates that 60 percent of the refugees are children, and over a thousand of those children are not travelling with their parents. These kids, and all refugees, are subject to many health risks. They endure physical violence, lack of safe food and water, and especially lack of shelter. Recent floods in Bangladesh have only exacerbated this issue. But perhaps more crippling is the mental and emotional trauma they endure. Young children are witnessing terrible acts of violence, watching their homes be destroyed, and facing an ever-changing environment. There is no stability in their lives. Moreover, many of these children have experienced the trauma of being separated from their families, or watching family members be hurt. UNICEF is trying to provide psychological therapy for these children, but it may not be enough. At these refugee sites, organizations will focus on treating the physical health of a patient first and many times their mental health will not receive the attention it needs, if it even receives any.
Ultimately, although there will more resources for these children than there would have been in the past, this issue is not receiving enough attention, and not enough of these children will receive sufficient medical care. Many of these children will not receive treatment for their mental health. There will be instead an emphasis on treating physical health because it is tangible and can be cured, while mental health may take many resources and a prolonged treatment to improve. The lasting impact of this crisis will, thus, be a generation of Rohingya people dealing with the aftereffects for the rest of their lives. They will be the invisibly wounded.