Ayesha and Jannat are Rohingya refugees from Myanmar sheltering in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. They fled violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State in 2017 with their families, walking for many days to reach the Bangladesh border. Today, they live in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp. Both receive assistance from networks of Rohingya community health and water, sanitation and hygiene volunteers supported by Community Partners International (CPI). Here are their stories.
Myanmar Launches HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Services in Major Milestone for National HIV Prevention
On July 31st, 2020, HIV healthcare providers and other key stakeholders gathered at an event in Yangon to inaugurate Myanmar’s first HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) clinics. This marks a major milestone for Myanmar’s strategic response to HIV, and will contribute to the scaling up of HIV prevention efforts.
"We have a real opportunity here to push back hepatitis B. With the right approach, we can free a generation of children in Myanmar from this debilitating and deadly virus.”
Seven years ago, Khin Aye went for a routine prenatal check-up while pregnant with her first child. The hospital staff conducted a blood test. “When the test came back, they told me I had hepatitis B.”
World AIDS Day: “I visit patients’ houses secretly to look after them when they are too ill to go to hospital.”
Thiri, 37, found out that she was HIV positive during a routine checkup while pregnant in 2013. She was afraid and alone. “I was so scared that others would find out that I had HIV so I didn’t leave the house for a long time. I couldn’t tell my parents.”
In Myanmar, violence against women and girls is a silent emergency. It takes many forms: domestic and intimate partner violence perpetrated within families; unwanted touching and sexual harassment on public transport; and violence occurring in conflict zones where women are particularly vulnerable. In a national survey carried out in 2015 and 2016, one in seven women in Myanmar reported that they had experienced violence since the age of 15. The real number is likely to be many more.
Ma Hnin, 26, lives in South Dagon township, a suburb to the northeast of Yangon, Myanmar's commercial capital. Ma Hnin’s family moved to South Dagon six years ago from a village further east. “It is easier to earn money in Yangon. That’s why my family moved here,” she says. Ma Hnin lives together with her parents, husband and two children - a three-year-old daughter and three-month-old son. Her husband and father both work for a local saw mill. Just over three years ago, when she was pregnant with her first child, Ma Hnin found out that she was hepatitis B positive.
Many women in remote and conflict-affected communities of Kachin State, Myanmar, lack access to reliable and comprehensive birth control options. Until recently in Myanmar, injectable hormonal birth control could only be provided by midwives. However, most communities in Kachin State do not have regular access to midwife services. In an important recent development, the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) introduced new guidelines allowing auxiliary midwives (AMWs) to administer a self-injectable hormonal birth control option (known as DMPA-SC), once they have been sufficiently trained. As the AMW network can reach more remote communities, this change has the potential to transform access to reliable and comprehensive birth control for many thousands of women of reproductive age in Kachin State and across Myanmar.
Meredith Walsh (back row, fourth from right), CPI Board Chair Dr. Tom Lee (second row, third from left) and CPI Board Member Dr. Adam Richards (second row, second from left) with CPI Bangladesh staff and Community Health Volunteers in Cox's Bazar in June 2019. Photo: Reza Shahriar Rahman for Community Partners International
Meredith Walsh, Community Partners International (CPI)’s Country Director in Bangladesh, reflects on the last 20 months working to support Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.
I arrived in Bangladesh in early November 2017 to help Community Partners International (CPI) set up operations in Cox’s Bazar. Just over two months earlier, this small sliver of land squeezed between Rakhine State in western Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal, became the world’s largest refugee camp virtually overnight.
Shomshida lives in the world’s largest and most densely populated refugee camp, Kutupalong, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Kutupalong is currently home to more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees from Rakhine State. Myanmar. She shares her small shelter, a rickety structure of bamboo and tarpaulin, with her husband and two-year old son. In late August 2017, she fled the violence in Rakhine State with her extended family. They walked for 15 days through jungle and across rivers, eventually reaching the border and crossing into Bangladesh. Her elderly father was unable to walk so they carried him throughout the arduous journey.
In support of the international campaign ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’, Community Partners International (CPI) is engaging in events and activities with partners and communities in Myanmar and in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) until December 10 (Human Rights Day). During these 16 Days of Activism, CPI is working closely with communities to raise awareness and understanding of sexual and gender-based violence, promote rights and protections, and provide information about care and support needs and options for survivors.