MSF to halt medical work in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine

Doctors Without Borders is suspending its services at 14 clinics in northern Rakhine State due to intensifying violence and blocked roads and waterways, which have disrupted humanitarian access and the transport of medical supplies

The charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will halt medical activities in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State due to an “extreme escalation of conflict” between an ethnic armed group and the military, it said.

Clashes have rocked the state since the Arakan Army (AA) attacked security forces in November, ending a ceasefire that had largely held since a military coup in 2021.

AA fighters have seized swathes of territory, piling further pressure on the junta as it battles opponents elsewhere in the country.

MSF was suspending “medical humanitarian activities” in northern Rakhine due to the “extreme escalation of conflict, indiscriminate violence, and severe restrictions on humanitarian access,” it said on Thursday.

The suspension would affect 14 mobile clinics in the townships of Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw, it said.

Fighting had impacted “regular healthcare services” by MSF teams in central and northern Rakhine since November, the charity said, adding that it faced difficulties moving medical and other supplies.

Many roads and waterways in riverine Rakhine State have been blocked by the military or the AA, closing options for villagers to flee to safety.

In May, the AA said it had seized the town of Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, home to many of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.

Several Rohingya diaspora groups later accused the AA of forcing Rohingya to flee and then looting and burning their homes—claims the AA called “propaganda.”

The AA has said its fighters are moving in on the nearby town of Maungdaw, on the border with Bangladesh.

The World Food Programme (WFP) condemned on Tuesday the “looting of food supplies” and burning of one of its warehouses near Maungdaw.

The incident occurred last Saturday, the WFP said, without specifying who it believed was responsible and adding it had not been able to access the site since May due to the conflict.

The junta and the AA have blamed each other for attacks on the warehouse.

Fighting is also ongoing around the southern Rakhine town of Thandwe, around 185 miles away, where junta troops and police have retreated to an airport, according to military sources.

The AA, which says it is fighting for autonomy for the state’s ethnic Rakhine population, has vowed to capture the whole of the state.

The powerful Rakhine ethnic armed group rebranded as the “Arakha Army” in April as a show of its interest in representing all ethnic communities in the state, not only the Rakhine Buddhist population.

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