HRW urges Myanmar to protect displaced people from COVID-19

Bangkok, Mar 30 (efe-epa) .- Nonprofit Human Rights Watch on Monday warned about the vulnerability of around 350,000 people across Myanmar living in camps for internally displaced persons in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic, especially due to the lack of healthcare measures.

So far Myanmar has detected just 10 people infected with the new coronavirus, a significantly low number compared to the rest of the region, which has raised doubts on the data’s veracity and the competence of the country’s poor healthcare system.

“Years of conflict, neglect, and abusive policies by Myanmar’s government and military have left hundreds of thousands of displaced people sitting in the path of a public health catastrophe,” HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said in a statement on Monday.

The NGO pointed out the overcrowded condition of displaced communities in Rakhine, Kachin, Shan, Chin and Karen states as a risk factor for the possible expansion of the new coronavirus.

It also denounced the limited access of this population to health, water or hygiene among other essential services and flagged restrictions imposed by authorities on humanitarian aid, the internet and movement of the displaced population.

“Authorities must ensure that these people have access to information, humanitarian aid and health services, including rapid tests and the isolation of those who show symptoms” of COVID-19 infection, Adams said.

The human rights organization said authorities were ill-equipped to handle a possible public health crisis, and were yet to designate a hospital for handling coronavirus cases in the western state of Rakhine, which has seen a major exodus of the Rohingya minority after a military campaign since 2017.

Despite efforts by the government led by Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, more than a dozen armed conflicts continue to rage in Myanmar – some carrying on for more than four decades – between the military and rebel ethnic guerrillas seeking greater autonomy from Naypyidaw. EFE-EPA


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