In the early hours of 25 August 2017, the Myanmar military launched “clearance operations” in Rakhine State, ostensibly in response to coordinated attacks by Rohingya armed groups on Border Guard Police outposts.
This resulted in an estimated 688,000 mainly Rohingya people from Rakhine State fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh. The speed and scale of displacement resulted in a critical humanitarian emergency; together with previously displaced people, this took the total number of Rohingya in Bangladesh to more than 900,000.3 The majority of these people are now living in extensions to pre-existing camps and pre-existing makeshift settlements, in spontaneouslyformed new settlements, and amongst the host community in Cox’s Bazar district.
Since 25 August, a number of patients from different areas of Rakhine State have shared with MSF accounts of widespread violence targeting Rohingya, including raids on houses and villages, random and indiscriminate shootings, the deaths of relatives or neighbours after being shot or stabbed, dead bodies littering their escape route, widespread destruction and sexual violence.
In November 2017, MSF conducted a total of six health surveys in Cox’s Bazar district which aimed at quantifying the current scale of the emergency by assessing factors including levels of mortality over time.4 Findings show that the Rohingya have been targeted, and are the clearest indication yet of the widespread violence that started on 25 August. MSF has also routinely collected accounts by refugees5 who recently arrived in Bangladesh to better understand the circumstances of their flight and the patterns of violence to which they have been exposed.
MSF estimates that at least 9,400 people lost their lives in Myanmar between 25 August and 24 September, of whom at least 6,700 died due to violence. At least 730 children under the age of five are estimated to have been killed.6 While the speed and scale of displacement alerted the international community to the severity of events, MSF mortality data indicates that violence reached an unprecedented level in the month following 25 August 2017. This contrasts sharply with official statements from the Myanmar authorities denying any wrongdoing in Rakhine State,7 and underestimating casualties caused by the so-called clearance operations.
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