Medical groups warn of health threat in ignoring Rohingya

Rohingya communities in Malaysia are largely unvaccinated, warn medical groups.

PETALING JAYA: A consortium of medical NGOs has expressed dismay at the response of some Malaysians towards Rohingya refugees in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mercy Malaysia, the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia and the Malaysia Relief Agency today noted an online petition titled “Say No to Rohingya”, urging the government to ignore the call of NGOs to look into the welfare of the refugees.

The petition, which had garnered upward of 30,000 signatures, was later removed.

“As the month of Ramadan dawns on us, we hope and pray that Malaysians will bestow some empathy and mercy upon all refugees, including the Rohingya, as fellow humans sharing the same space that God has bestowed upon us all,” the consortium said in a statement.

“The refugee and Rohingya issue in Malaysia will not go away simply with a petition.

“Rather than idealistically trying to wish them and their problems away with a magic wand, our consortium chooses to tackle the problem head-on, solving one problem at a time, focusing on their potential threat of being a Covid-19 hotbed,” it added.

It said refugees must be screened, treated and protected from Covid-19, not only on humanitarian grounds but also for infection control purposes.

Not afforded the basic healthcare that Malaysians take for granted, and charged expatriate rates at hospitals and clinics, the NGOs said Rohingya communities are largely unvaccinated and live in large numbers in cramped surroundings due to financial challenges.

“If not quickly identified and treated, infectious diseases such as Covid-19 will continue to fester and spread not only among themselves but to our countrymen,” they warned.

“The government’s decisive action of identifying their cluster and moving in with mass screenings are to be lauded, for the overall good of all Malaysians.”

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