Rest of Asia

Doctors Without Borders ordered to stop work in Myanmar city

Filed on June 9, 2021
Protesters take cover as they clash with riot police officers during a protest against the military coup in Yangon. — Reuters

The organisation says suspending activities could be life-threatening for for many patients

An international medical charity warned on Wednesday of “life-threatening” consequences for thousands of HIV and tuberculosis patients in Myanmar after it was ordered by the junta to stop work in a southern city.

Doctors Without Borders — widely known by its French initials MSF — received a letter from regional authorities “asking to suspend all activities” in southeastern Dawei, where it has provided HIV care for over two decades.

“Suspending MSF’s activities could be life-threatening for many of our patients at a time when public services remain severely disrupted,” it said in a statement to AFP.

Almost all public hospitals remain closed following the country’s February coup with many doctors joining a huge civil strike, leaving the healthcare system incapacitated.

MSF added it had reached out to authorities to “understand” the decision, which it said would impact 2,162 people living with HIV and receiving antiretroviral treatment in the city.

The charity also warned of the risk of further disease transmission, including tuberculosis, as it has been filling gaps in the nation’s faltering TB programme since February.

MSF has requested authorities in Dawei — the hometown of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing — reverse the decision, it added.

Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralysed since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in the February 1 coup.

Dawei has seen near daily protests since the putsch, and brutal crackdowns by security forces.

More than 800 people have been killed across the country since February, according to a local monitoring group.

On Tuesday the Red Cross said it was urgently ramping up efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of 236,000 people in Myanmar, which was already reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic before the coup struck.

The announcement came after the charity’s president Peter Maurer was granted a rare meeting with Min Aung Hlaing last week and called for increased humanitarian access to the country.

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