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Sittwe – The authorities in Myanmar have so far excluded the Muslim Rohingya minority from vaccination programs against Covid-19 and denied them health care and the right to health. The Rohingya live in densely packed camps in the Burmese state of Rakhine in western Myanmar. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh during military operations in 2017. Those who stayed in Myanmar complain of discrimination and mistreatment in a country that does not recognize them as citizens.
For example, the local government of Sittwe City confirms that the vaccination campaign for priority and vulnerable groups such as the elderly, health workers, government employees and Buddhist monks will continue and that the Rohingya will not be involved for the time being. The Rohingya live in ghettos in Sittwe, separated from the rest of the population, and are not treated in hospital if they contract Covid. “They are denied the right to health”, say human rights activists such as the organization “Fortify Rights”. “The Rohingya in Rakhine have expressed fear and distrust of the state health system”, the NGO said. About 100,000 displaced people live around Sittwe, while another 500,000 Rohingya live in villages in the rest of Rakhine State.
In the fight against the pandemic, Myanmar is trying to get vaccine doses for its people. The previous government of the National League for Democracy, which was overthrown by a military coup on February 1, 2021, had already ordered 30 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from India, known as “Covidshield” developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. The first doses of the vaccine arrived from India in January 2021, but no more doses were delivered due to the increase in cases in India. The country has also bought vaccines from China and Russia. According to the World Health Organization, developing countries, including Myanmar, will receive a total of 1.8 billion doses of vaccines under the Covax program.