Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – Rohingya refugees in Medan, North Sumatra, are struggling to access child health services amid a lack of resources, forcing many to treat sick children at refugee shelters without professional support.
Mohd Mas'ud, a refugee who has faced such difficulties, said he had brought his young daughter to the emergency room of the nearby North Sumatra University (USU) Hospital to have her diarrhea treated but found he did not have enough money to pay for further care.
"I was forced to bring her back, even though she was still weak," Mas'ud told The Jakarta Post in a refugee shelter on Jl. Jamin Ginting in Medan on Thursday.
The temporary shelter is managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) "I tried asking for help from the IOM to pay the hospital bill, but I was rejected," he said.
M. Noor, another refugee, said that whenever refugees' children fell ill, they had to bear the costs themselves. Health aid was available for emergency cases, but they had to go through difficult procedures.
"The IOM has to approve whether the condition falls under the emergency category. If it's not approved, we bear it ourselves," he told the Post.
The IOM provides a monthly allowance of Rp 500,000 (US$34) per child, according to Noor. "That amount is not enough to cover food, let alone medical needs," he said.
A Myanmar military crackdown in 2017, which United Nations investigators have said amounted to genocide, forced 750,000 Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh's southeast coastal district of Cox's Bazar, where many ended up in sprawling refugee camps.
Thousands have since paid smugglers to get them out of Bangladesh, enduring months-long sea journeys punctuated by illness, beatings by traffickers and near-starvation rations, to reach Indonesia and Malaysia.
Hundreds of refugees ended up in cities in Sumatra, such as Medan, where they await, in some cases for years on end, resettlement to a third country.
According to the IOM, refugees usually stay in temporary shelters until they are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). After being registered, they are moved to IOM-run community housing and are taught skills to prepare them for a future in a third country.
In September 2021, 51 Rohingya refugees fled from the shelter in Medan after their boat landed on an island off the coast of East Aceh in June.
IOM Indonesia communications officer Ariani Hasanah Soejoeti said, when contacted by the Post, that the organization supported access to primary, secondary and tertiary health care for refugees through a national network of healthcare providers.
Ariani said the IOM had a robust complaints and feedback mechanism and strove to respond to refugee concerns as best it could.
"The IOM is committed to working together with the refugees and healthcare providers in Medan. This support includes treatment in an emergency room facility where the treating physician's diagnosis confirms that the patient's condition requires emergency care and any hospitalization," Ariani said.