Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Junta orders Doctors Without Borders to stop work in Myanmar city

YANGON (AFP) – An international medical charity warned on Wednesday (June 9) 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 us 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.

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 for authorities in Dawei – the hometown of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing – to reverse the decision, it added.

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

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

More on this topic

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 Mr Min Aung Hlaing last week and called for increased humanitarian access to the country.

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