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Czech mission funds mobile health care project for refugees in Malaysia

News Stories, 25 June 2007

© UNHCR/S.Hoibak
Hypertension due to stress is common among refugees. This refugee man is being checked in a mobile clinic by a volunteer doctor as his daughter looks on.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, June 25 (UNHCR) The Czech Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has agreed to fund a nine-month UNHCR project aimed at providing mobile health care for about 1,000 refugees in Malaysia.

Under an agreement signed on Friday with UNHCR and implementing partner, Mercy Malaysia, the Czech mission will provide US$19,000 for the project, which is due to get under way on July 1. Mobile clinics will serve refugees mainly from Myanmar, including the Rohingyas and the Myanmar Muslim communities in Klang district, 30 kilometres west of Kuala Lumpur.

An estimated 150 consultations will be made every month for general health care, including mental health care and pre- and post-natal care. Referral services will be provided for those requiring second-line treatment.

"Access to health care services is sometimes limited for refugees and asylum seekers due to various factors such as costs of medical care, language barriers and difficulties in physically accessing hospitals and clinics," said Volker Türk, UNHCR's representative in Malaysia. "This mobile clinic project will enable health care services to reach refugees where they are," he added.

Czech Republic Ambassador Dana Hunatova said she hoped the project would bring benefit to refugees in Malaysia and also draw more attention to the problems they face. "We understand the whole complexity of this issue and we hope that with this small contribution we are also helping Malaysia to tackle it," she said, noting that refugees cannot find legal employment, cannot send their children to school and have limited access to basic health care.

UNHCR's Türk paid tribute to the Malaysian health authorities for ensuring access to health care for marginalized groups. The project aims to complement medical services provided by state-run and private clinics by bringing health care to refugees who for various reasons are unable to travel far.

At the beginning of this month, there were some 37,000 refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, mainly from Myanmar.

By Yante Ismail in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia




UNHCR country pages

Public Health

The health of refugees and other displaced people is a priority for UNHCR.

Health crisis in South Sudan

There are roughly 105,000 refugees in South Sudan's Maban County. Many are at serious health risk. UNHCR and its partners are working vigorously to prevent and contain the outbreak of malaria and several water-borne diseases.

Most of the refugees, especially children and the elderly, arrived at the camps in a weakened condition. The on-going rains tend to make things worse, as puddles become incubation areas for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Moderately malnourished children and elderly can easily become severely malnourished if they catch so much as a cold.

The problems are hardest felt in Maban County's Yusuf Batil camp, where as many as 15 per cent of the children under 5 are severely malnourished.

UNHCR and its partners are doing everything possible to prevent and combat illness. In Yusuf Batil camp, 200 community health workers go from home to home looking educating refugees about basic hygene such as hand washing and identifying ill people as they go. Such nutritional foods as Plumpy'nut are being supplied to children who need them. A hospital dedicated to the treatment of cholera has been established. Mosquito nets have been distributed throughout the camps in order to prevent malaria.

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Many Malaysians are astonished to learn that there are refugees living in their country. That's how invisible most of the 67,800 refugees in Malaysian towns and cities are. They don't live in camps, but in low-cost flats and houses alongside the homes of Malaysians. The refugees, overwhelmingly from Myanmar, live in tight-knit groups with as many as 20 or 30 people in one small flat.

As in many other Asian countries, even official UNHCR refugee status does not always afford adequate protection. Refugees are not allowed to work legally, so are subject to exploitation in dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs that locals do not want.

More than in many other countries, refugees in Malaysia have banded together to help themselves in the absence of official services. UNHCR, non-governmental organizations and volunteers support these initiatives, which include small crafts businesses, as well as schools and clinics, but they are largely driven by the refugees themselves.

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The photographs in this set were taken by Bechir Malum.

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