Malaysia readies field hospital to treat Rohingya

COX'S BAZAR • A medical team from Malaysia tasked to run a RM3.5 million (S$1.1 million) field hospital for Rohingya refugees expects to receive a high number of maternity cases involving rape victims as well as ailments caused by unsanitary living conditions.

Work carried out by Malaysian armed forces personnel to get the hospital up and running was expected to have been completed yesterday. It will then be handed over to the Malaysian Health Ministry.

The 50-bed field hospital, which measures 100m by 70m, will start operations on Friday.

The Malaysian ministry's team of 50 medical and support staff includes specialists and psychiatrists to provide treatment for the women and girls, reported New Straits Times yesterday.

"The most critical need here is maternal healthcare and medical and psychiatric treatment for rape victims," Colonel Dr Mohd Arshil Moideen was quoted as saying by Malaysia's The Sun Daily newspaper.

He said the rise of infectious diseases was the most challenging problem in any humanitarian mission. "When the hospital begins operations on Dec 1, it will be a complete field hospital in this area, with an operational cost of RM1.5 million per month... but there is no price for humanitarian work," he added.

Dr Arshil, who is the chief technical adviser for the project, said the team expects to receive a high number of cases, especially for gastroenteritis ulcers due to the refugees' unsanitary living conditions.

"This hospital will be the most complete facility (at the refugee camps), with services provided on a par with a district specialist hospital, once it is up and running. It will (also) receive patients who are referred here by district hospitals around the area," he told a group of 13 Malaysian lawmakers who visited the refugee camps and hospital site last Saturday.

"The hospital will be able to provide specialist care, including surgery and treatment for infectious diseases," Dr Arshil said.

The hospital is sited in Ukhiya, a 10-minute walk from the main Rohingya refugee camps in Kutupalong and Bhalukali.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said at a media briefing earlier this month that the field hospital, once ready, would create "a very strong presence of Malaysia", reported The Star newspaper.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they live in refugee camps. The two governments signed a pact last Thursday agreeing that the return of the Rohingya to Myanmar should start within two months.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysia readies field hospital to treat Rohingya'. Print Edition | Subscribe