Updated: August 30, 2021 08:57 AM GMT
A Rohingya woman carries a child in Thet Kel Pyin camp near Sittwe, Rakhine state, during Eid al-Adha celebrations on July 21. (Photo: Anadolu via AFP)
The Myanmar junta has backtracked on its plans to withhold Covid-19 vaccinations from the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state following an outcry from rights groups.
More than 120,000 Rohingya have been confined in camps for the internally displaced in the western state since 2012. Coronavirus cases have been reported in the camps, where they are restricted from freedom of movement and have limited access to health care, education and employment opportunities.
An estimated 500,000 Rohingya live elsewhere in Rakhine state where they also face oppression and discrimination.
Thein Maung, one of the leaders in Dar Paing camp near Sittwe, capital of Rakhine, said people from two nearby camps have received Covid-19 vaccinations and their turn will come next.
He said they have already collected the data from the camps for Covid-19 jabs.
“Not many Covid cases have been reported in the camps and we urge people to practice Covid regulations such as wearing face masks and washing hands,” Thein Maung told UCA News.
We will not leave anyone behind. They are also our people
Daw Cho from Taung Paw camp in Myebon town said many people suffered the symptoms of Covid-19 such as loss of smell, headaches and fever in July.
Eight people from the camp who are over 65 have already been inoculated, according to Daw Cho.
“We are still waiting for the turn of other people as we have collected data for vaccination,” he told UCA News.
The junta’s spokesman said in a news conference on Aug. 27 that vaccinations will be offered to Rohingya in Rakhine as no one will be left behind in its inoculation program.
“We will not leave anyone behind. They are also our people,” Zaw Min Tun said.
He used the term "Bengalis" to refer to Rohingya, implying that the ethnic Muslims are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh even though they have lived in Myanmar for decades.
The junta’s move came days after rights groups decried its initial denial of Covid-19 vaccinations after local administrators reportedly said they had no plan to include Rohingya in Rakhine.
More than 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee to Bangladesh following the military’s crackdown in August 2017 after decades of systematic discrimination, statelessness and targeted violence.
The junta has been trying to carry out vaccinations following soaring cases in the third wave of Covid-19, which is worsening due to the virtual collapse of the country’s health system.
On Aug. 30, health authorities reported 3,166 new cases and 106 deaths, bringing total infections to 392,900 and deaths to 15,183.