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Widodo guarantees support for Rohingya refugees

Indonesian president reaffirms commitment after visiting Jamtoli camp in Bangladesh to meet aid workers

Widodo guarantees support for Rohingya refugees

Indonesian President Joko Widodo speaks to Rohingya refugees in Jamtoli camp in Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Secretariat of Indonesia)

President Joko Widodo has reaffirmed Indonesia's government's commitment to help the Rohingya who fled ethnic violence in Myanmar during a trip to Cox's Bazar district in Bangladesh.

During a visit to Jamtoli refugee camp in Ukhiya Upazila on Jan. 28, he met Indonesians working to help the Rohingya, including Dr. Corona Rintawan, coordinator of the Indonesian Humanitarian Alliance(IHA).

The IHA works with Dreamers Medical Camps (DMC), a local NGO.

IHA-DMC is one of the health facilities resulting from a cooperation agreement between the Indonesian government and several NGOs, including Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the two largest Islamic organizations in the country, as well as Caritas Indonesia. 

"I came here to directly see the activities of our communities, NGOs and also the government," Widodo said. 

"Since the beginning, our government has always been ready to take part in coordinating efforts in the field and we will provide this humanitarian aid continuously."

The president said Indonesia will soon provide hospitals, shelters, educational centers, trauma healing, three ambulances for medical services, solar panels and water purifiers.  

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh following a deadly military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine State in response to Rohingya militant attacks on security checkposts on Aug. 25 last year.

A month later, Widodo sent the first batch of humanitarian aid consisting of rice, fast food, family kits, water tanks, tents, clothes and blankets to the Rohingya. 

In the same month, Muhammadiyah sent the first medical team to Cox's Bazar. Due to the Bangladesh government's visa policy, however, each medical team's healthcare services can only last for two weeks.  

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Speaking with ucanews.com on Jan. 29, Rintawan said Widodo inspected healthcare services and facilities provided for the Rohingya.  

He said at least 15,950 people had benefited from healthcare services and more than 1,800 children had been provided with nutrition. Many suffered from respiratory infections, skin disease, fever and diarrhea. 

The condition of the Rohingya remains worrying. "They solely rely on humanitarian aid. The [Indonesian] government and both international and local NGOs are trying hard to send humanitarian aid to them on a daily basis," Rintawan said.

Barori Budi Aji, secretary of the Yogyakarta-based Muhammadiyah Disaster Management Center that runs Muhammadiyah Aid, said his group will continue to provide the Rohingya with healthcare services in the district until December.

"We focus on the district because many refugees stay there. Due to below-standard camps, many face health problems," he said, adding that his group has spent about 1.8 billion rupiah (US$74,000) on humanitarian aid.

Father Antonius Banu Kurnianto, director of Caritas Indonesia, could not be reached for comment but has previously said his group has committed to sending money to help the Rohingya.

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