Written by Jory Gomes ’18
“Even now, in case of emergency, we can’t go out of the camp. If we go out, we have to pay from 20,000 to 100,000 kyat (US$74) to soldiers at checkpoints. There were two cases so urgent that we paid the bribe to go to the nearest hospital” (International Rescue Committee, 2017). Thiri Hla Ming, who wrote to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) under a pseudonym for protection, described the health effects of the ethnic violence in Myanmar (Burma) in the most troubling of terms. She, along with other IRC workers, Khin Hla Hlaing, and Zaw Naing, work in the Rakhine State of northwestern Myanmar where 800,000 people—and counting—have been displaced by ethnic violence that erupted following conflict between Rohingya Muslim militants, and the largely Buddhist Burmese military (IRC, 2017).
Rohingya (an ethnic group within Myanmar) Muslim refugees, fearing for their lives, have been fleeing Myanmar for neighboring country Bangladesh, though not all are lucky to escape the violence (IRC, 2018). Those Rohingya still in Myanmar are living under harsh conditions in camps guarded by the military. Within Myanmar, starting August 25, 2017, there was a 2 month barring of humanitarian aid that ceased the IRC’s efforts within the country, further starving and hurting of the Rohingya population (IRC, 2017).
Since the outbreak of violence last year, around 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, with the majority finding themselves in Cox’s Bazaar, where the IRC is providing emergency health assistance, protection for vulnerable women and girls, as well as food for the starving (IRC, 2017). However, the IRC, and their partners, are largely underfunded for helping the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis of our time (IRC, 2018).
In times like these, humanitarian crises can be in the position of fighting each other for resources. Unfortunately, this is the case for Myanmar and Yemen. While the IRC is pushing humanitarian aid to combat malnutrition and violence for the rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, the Yemeni people are facing a public health emergency of epic proportions (IRC, 2018). War has ravaged the medical infrastructure of Yemen, and there is an entire generation of children who have never received vaccinations (IRC, 2018). Michelle Gayer, the senior director of emergency health at the IRC said that the “suffering is the direct result of a fractured healthcare system due to prolonged conflict in the country” (IRC, 2018). Not only is Yemen being ravaged by over 1 million cases of cholera, the destruction of the healthcare system is causing other easily preventable diseases to spread at alarming rates (IRc, 2018).
It should go without saying that the atrocious crises in Myanmar and Yemen should be taken care of. Too often we don’t see ourselves as pieces of the puzzle in the jigsaw that is global affairs, but in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, we need to “Be the change [we] wish to see in the world.” At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, I raised $251 in donations to the IRC for my 21st birthday last year. Imagine what could happen if Hiram, and it’s never ending network of family, friends, and alumni decided to stand up and try to make a difference.
We are 1300+ strong. We have students, staff, faculty, coaches, administrators, alumni, family, and friends. What kind of impact could we have on the world if we came together? I want a Hiram that has the courage to take stands on local issues, the kindness to care about our community, and the resolve to both think and act globally. I want a Hiram that sees the crises in Yemen and Myanmar and refuses to look away—because we may be small, but we can have a mighty impact.
If you want to help, please consider donating, even something as small as $5, to the International Rescue Committee, a leader in humanitarian work in Yemen, Myanmar, and the world. If you cannot donate, please consider sharing this article, or the direct donation link to your social media accounts. The organization has the highest nonprofit accountability ratings, and provides direct care to the people in crisis. For more information please visit https://www.rescue.org/. To donate, please go to https://help.rescue.org/donate.
International Rescue Committee. (2017). Fear and hunger: Rohingya aid workers describe life inside Rakhine. Retrieved from: https://www.rescue.org/article/fear-and-hunger-rohingya-aid-workers-describe-life-inside-rakhine
International Rescue Committee. (2018). Myanmar. Retrieved from: https://www.rescue.org/country/myanmar
International Rescue Committee. (2017). Rohingya refugee crisis majorly underfunded in all areas of need. Retrieved from: https://www.rescue.org/press-release/rohingya-refugee-crisis-majorly-underfunded-all-areas-need
International Rescue Committee. (2018). Yemen. Retrieved from: https://www.rescue.org/country/yemen