The Rohingya: The world's largest stateless population

One of the world’s biggest and most urgent refugee crises is currently occurring in South East Asia. The Rohingya people have faced persecution and abuse for decades, with many of those who remain in Myanmar forced to live in camps in Rakhine State, violently driven from their homes, their villages destroyed. Those who fled targeted persecution have sought refuge in countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and India.

The Rohingya refugee crisis

MedicalRefugees and displaced persons 
At least 1.2 million Rohingya have been displaced during violent and targeted campaigns led by the Myanmar military, with most fleeing across the border to Bangladesh. Around 900,000 people live in camps in Cox's Bazaar. 


Neglected people
The Rohingya have been described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities in world. Rohingya refugees lack access to basic rights and services, including freedom of movement, healthcare, state education, and jobs. 


Successive violent campaigns by the Myanmar military, the largest of which was in August 2017, has led to more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees taking shelter in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in what has become the world’s largest refugee camp. Around half of those in the camps are children.

The exponential growth of the population in such a short amount of time has resulted in a severe deterioration of living conditions;  finding shelter in the overcrowded camps is a challenge. Barbed wire fences limit their interactions with the outside world, including options to access work or education. The situation is extremely precarious, with many people lacking access to healthcare, safe drinking water, latrines and food.

The impacts of statelessness

In 1982, Myanmar introduced a Citizenship Law which arbitrarily deprived the Rohingya of their citizenship. Under this law, full citizenship is based on membership of the ‘national races’. As the Rohingya are not considered to be part of these national races, they are regarded as foreigners.

It has been 40 years since Myanmar stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship, and five years since the Myanmar military campaign forced more then 700,000 Rohingya to flee their home country. As Bangladesh does not recognise the Rohingya as refugees, no formal education is allowed and there are few opportunities for work—and there is no safe way to return home to Myanmar. This insecurity has worsened with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reduced their already limited freedoms and diminished their access to healthcare.

For many Rohingya refugees the situation feels dire, as they continue to live in overcrowded, basic conditions, dealing with outbreaks of disease, and struggling with the traumas of all they have endured. Statelessness has serious consequences in every area of life, and without opportunities for education and work, there are few options for escaping the ‘temporary’ living situations they are in. Long-term, durable solutions are needed for the Rohingya—this population cannot continue to be ignored and forgotten.





A boy flies a kite in Jamtoli camp, Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, where thousands of Rohingya refugees are living after fleeing their homes in Myanmar. © Vincenzo Livieri 

Our work with the Rohingya

MSF has been working in Bangladesh since 1985 in both the capital Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, the coastal border town with Myanmar. Our teams manage a range of activities in and around the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, providing essential healthcare for Rohingya and Bangladeshi communities alike.

In Cox’s Bazar, we manage ten hospitals and primary health centres, with activities including emergency and intensive care, paediatrics, obstetrics, sexual and reproductive healthcare, and treatment for patients with non-communicable diseases.





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