In 2012, when violence erupted between Rohingya and Rakhine communities, Zaw Rina’s home in Pauktaw town was burned down. She was forced to flee with her family to a camp in Ah Nauk Ywe on a difficult-to-reach island in the remote western part of the state. The impermanence of the fragile bamboo structure she lives in now belies the decade she has spent in the camp.
Flimsy shelter next to flimsy shelter line narrow, muddy pathways through the overcrowded camps in which more than 5,000 people live. Drainage is insufficient, with puddles of stagnant water a breeding ground for mosquitos and disease. There are too many people for too few toilets, while low water supplies, particularly in the dry season, means the facilities are typically filthy. Privacy is almost impossible to find.
That violence in 2012 that saw Zaw Rina’s home destroyed and killed hundreds, drove some 140,000 people, both Rohingya and Kaman Muslims, into these camps. Most remain there today where they have limited freedom of movement, denying them access to paid work, education and healthcare. Many embark on perilous journeys over sea and land to Bangladesh and Malaysia in the hope of a better life.
Impacting mental health
The day-to-day existence for Zaw Rina and thousands of others like her living in Rakhine state is underlined by struggles to afford food, safety fears, and feelings of hopelessness. This protracted status quo has drastic consequences on mental health.