Rohingya refugee emergency

Since 25 August 2017, over 693,000  Rohingya refugees have fled from Myanmar, crossing the border into Cox’s Bazar district, Bangladesh, following a concerted campaign of violence by the Myanmar military against Rohingya in Rakhine State.

Combined with the pre-existing Rohingya refugee population, more than 905,000 refugees are now in Bangladesh.

MSF first established a mission in Bangladesh in 1985 and has had a continuous presence since 1992. Following the most recent influx of refugees in August 2017, MSF launched additional emergency projects in Cox’s Bazar.

MSF opens hospital providing refuge to Rohingya refugees

On April 14, MSF opened a 100-bed hospital in the Kutupalong-Balukali camp. The hospital was designed to respond to an emergency situation - the massive arrival of Rohingyas fleeing the violence in Myanmar – and to the onset of the monsoon season (heavy floods during a season) which will make ensuring access to medical care in the camps extremely challenging.

Understanding the Rohingya refugee crisis


MSF project locations


Latest reports


The risk of disease outbreaks such as diphtheria, cholera and hepatitis E remains high. MSF has put in place several Diarrhoea Treatment Units and emergency preparedness plans to react in case of significant damage to the health facilities. A new hospital at the heart of the vast Kutupalong-Balukhali camp has an emergency room, an intensive care unit, a medical analysis laboratory, inpatient departments for adults and children, a maternity department with a neo-natal care unit, an isolation unit for patients with infectious diseases and an intensive therapeutic feeding centre for severely malnourished children - of whom there are few, but whose numbers may well increase during the monsoon season.

There is an urgent need to ensure that there is routine vaccination for the Rohingya and host populations and that all health actors are better prepared for outbreak response. Humanitarian needs remain immense. The dense population and the poor living conditions in the settlements are putting people at a higher risk of public health emergency, especially for vulnerable population like children. Although the government of Bangladesh has implemented a mass vaccination campaign for measles, there is always a risk of any infectious diseases unless the root causes are addressed. 


MSF activities


There is an urgent need to ensure that there is routine vaccination for the Rohingya and host populations and that all health actors are better prepared for outbreak response. Humanitarian needs remain immense.

In November 2017, MSF supported the government in expanding routine vaccination in the camps through initiating vaccination for children and pregnant women at MSF facilities. Staff at all MSF health facilities will have the capacity to administer immunisation for measles and rubella, oral polio and tetanus according to national protocols. The Ministry of Health started a measles and rubella vaccination catch-up campaign on November 18th which ran for 12 days and targeted a total of more than 336,000 children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years. MSF supported this campaign with community mobilization, site identification, logistics, and transportation of vaccines. A vaccination coverage survey is planned in mid-December in order to evaluate the success of the campaign.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Bangladesh, Rohingya refugee emergency
MSF activities and daily life of the refugees in Tasnimarkhola campCaptured: Um Kalsoum lost two children in the August 25, 2017 killings in her village. Her 18-month-old boy Abdul Hafiz survived. Photo: Mohammad Ghannam/MSF

Sexual violence

MSF teams have seen a number of women and girls who have become pregnant as a result of sexual violence, either in Myanmar or in Bangladesh. MSF is also concerned about the women and girls arriving with medical consequences of unsafe or incomplete abortions.

Estimating the number of survivors is not possible. However, sexual violence is often underreported due to stigma and shame, fear of reprisals, a lack of knowledge about the medical consequences of sexual violence and the need for timely medical care, and a lack of awareness about the medical and psychological support available. Given these barriers, it is likely that the number of SGBV survivors MSF has treated so far is just a fraction of reality.

MSF has specialised staff on the ground to treat survivors who are referred for treatment as a result of trauma, including sexual assault and rape. MSF’s local community outreach workers are visiting the people living in the settlements, informing them about the free services the organisation offers, including treatment for sexual violence.

Water and Sanitation (WASH)

Living conditions for the refugees need to be massively improved with a particular focus on improvements to water and sanitation, and in reducing population density. The situation of the Rohingya in Bangladesh remains precarious; in the current context of dense population and poor water, hygiene, and sanitation conditions.

Due to the lack of a drainage system, stagnant water is present around a quarter (26%) of all tube wells. As for sanitation, 39% of emergency latrines installed by WASH partners, mostly at the early stage of the emergency response are non-functional. And desludging and decommissioning of these latrines remains a priority to improve the inadequate sanitation environment.

MSF is targeting its water and sanitation response in the most difficult to reach areas. So far MSF has built 1247 latrines, 157 water wells and a gravity water supply system both in the settlements located in the North as well as in the ones in the South.


MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Rohingya refugee emergency
MSF activities & daily life of the refugees in Tasnimarkhola camp. Photo: Mohammad Ghannam/MSF

For more updates:

Interactive guide to the Rohingya refugee emergency

"I fled with my whole family, but my son was shot while running away. I brought him to the hospital here in Bangladesh, but left the other family members in the forest in Myanmar, just hiding there. I haven't heard from them for days now. I don't know what to do, I feel so desperate."

49-year-old father who fled Myanmar into Bangladesh