Statement to the UNHRC
- October 21, 2021
- Posted by: user
- Category: Press Release
MDHRN (Myanmar Doctors for Human Rights Network) would like to thank the honourable audience of the United Nations Human Rights Commission for taking the time to read our statement. We believe that at such difficult and challenging times Myanmar is facing at the moment, it is very important for us to report the truth and make our voices heard by those around the world who believe in justice and democracy.
As we believe that all the honourable audience are aware of the current situation in Myanmar that has been going on for a few months already, we would like to make a brief updated report about the deteriorating situation of healthcare in Myanmar and the deliberate attacks on personnel and facilities for healthcare.
Attacks on healthcare
There have been numerous documented attacks on healthcare professionals by the SAC of Myanmar. Data last updated on 25/05/2021 from the WHO has recorded 179 episodes of attacks on healthcare facilities, personnel and patients, including 51 injuries and 13 deaths. This is not counting many events that are simply not widely known nor reported because of the nation-wide communication cut off and information blackout.
The SAC has claimed they are trying to arrest the CDM doctors who had shown defiance against the junta and are “breaking the law.” However, many of these violent events involve private doctors who have never worked in government hospitals, volunteer doctors, NGOs and charity clinics which have been filling the gap in healthcare for the public left by the Civil Disobedience Movement and even the patients themselves at these hospitals and clinics. As such, it is difficult to believe anything other than that the healthcare workers as a whole are being deliberately targeted because they are among the first to protest against the coup.
Collapse of the healthcare system
These indiscriminate attacks on the healthcare system have led to a great deterioration of healthcare which is already starting to collapse. Patients, who are already under immense stress due to their own health problems, are having difficulty receiving care because of roadblocks, strict curfews imposed by the SAC, lack of safety during travelling and the risk of getting hit by stray bullets at any time, the high probability of getting abducted during their stay at the clinics and hospitals. On top of that, since the healthcare workers have to hide themselves for their safety, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the patients to look for a doctor who will treat them. Emergency cases can happen at any time which demand life-saving and time-critical treatments.
In one recent scenario, two doctors were working at a charity clinic to take care of the wounded protesters when the soldiers outside fired into the clinic. One of them was performing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on an arrested patient while the other was suturing the wound of another one. They both had to flee for their lives through the windows, hesitantly & regrettably leaving the injured behind. On another occasion, a man and a woman in Mandalay who came to receive their COVID vaccines got hit by a stray bullet, injuring the man and killing the woman on the spot. SAC troops storming private hospitals frequently in search of “CDM doctors” is not an uncommon occurrence; these troops go through patient records without any respect towards patient confidentiality and sometimes they detain a few, even the sick receiving critical care. NLD (National League for Democracy) Party’s AIDS Center has been raided and the patients who were there were detained, including young children. The hospitals and clinics, which are supposed to be a sanctuary for the sick and a place to focus solely on recuperating, have become places where patients have to live in constant fear of when they might be targeted next and get arrested or get shot for no reason.
Denial of healthcare
There are also many events involving the denial of healthcare by the SAC. The most recent example happened in Mindat, Chin state, where a conflict broke out between the SAC troops and the local defence forces. Civilians in the city had to flee to the nearby forests for their safety but were in dire need of medicines, food, water and other basic supplies. These displaced people were unable to seek medical attention because of the SAC laying siege and blocking movement around the city. Even a few days ago, a 6 day old child in Mindat died of a health problem because the parents simply did not have a single chance to seek medical care for their beloved newborn.
Similar events are happening in IDP camps in Kachin and Karen regions where people are escaping from the armed conflicts but are unable to escape from the problems associated with a prolonged stay in the forest. There are no enough shelters nor any sustainable access to drinking water, and tropical illnesses are rampant. They are unable to get help from the humanitarian groups because the SAC has been blocking them. Unsurprisingly, most Myanmar people now feel that they have been ignored and neglected by the international community and that the organisations such as the UN and the ICRC could have done much better to help them.
It is not just the treatment of the health problems that have been impacted by the coup, however. As a developing country with very few spare resources, it was extremely challenging to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. However, at the beginning of 2021, the then elected government of Myanmar announced a program to buy 30 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from India, which were expected to help contain the spread of the disease in the country. These doses were shipped in January and April 2021.
However, recent studies show a great difference in the number of people who have received the first dose and those who have received the second: 1.54 million to 0.34 million. This shows the undeniable failure of the vaccination programme. In addition, the COVID-19 testing facilities and the surveillance system have been ground to a halt since the coup. We are greatly concerned about the potentially uncontrollable surge in cases in the country, when our neighbours such as Thailand and India have been having trouble trying to contain the latest wave of the pandemic.
More action needed
The director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) Mr. Simon Adams and the Special Advisory Council on Myanmar (SAC-M) have received our previous open letter and have been advocating for the attacks on healthcare facilities and professionals. However, we have yet to see any slightest hint of change in the behavior of the SAC forces targeting the healthcare sector. In contrast, the attacks seem to be accelerating with indiscriminate violence against the civilians.
One day without adequate health care is one more day with unnecessary and preventable deaths. The people dying are not just nobodies. They are our country’s future generations, parents of these children and people that are contributing to the country in their own able ways. As such, it is important for these people to get medical care without any fear and for medical professionals to provide the care whenever and wherever needed. By stripping the injured off their fundamental human rights to assess the immediate life saving treatments and by effectively and forcibly preventing the doctors from providing the essential medical care to these people, many lives which could otherwise have been saved are unnecessarily lost.
Our appeal to the international community
We humbly request the international organizations to put pressure on the military junta in every possible way and to take effective and pragmatic measures against them so that the police and the Tatmadaw stop purposely targeting the medical professionals and the sick. Us healthcare professionals sincerely want to provide the necessary care to the injured and save lives, and the patients themselves should be able to seek medical attention without the concern of the possible ruthless actions by the SAC for seeking help.
We are determined to continue working until the medical personnel can provide required medical care to the wounded protesters, the sick and the injured freely in each and every corner of Myanmar.
Myanmar Doctors for Human Rights Network
University of Medicine 1 Students’ Union
University of Medicine 2 Students’ Union
University of Medicine Mandalay Students’ Union
University of Medicine Magway Students’ Union
University of Medicine TaungGyi Students’ Union
University of Traditional Medicine Students’ Union
University of Community Health Students’ Union
University of Nursing Yangon Students’ Union
University of Pharmacy Yangon Students’ Union
University of Pharmacy Mandalay Students’ Union
University of Medical Technology Yangon Students’ Union
University of Medical Technology Mandalay Students’ Union
University of Dental Medicine Yangon Students’ Union
University of Dental Medicine Mandalay Students’ Union
University of Veterinary Science Students’ Union