The international aid organisation Medicins Sans Frontiers says it has been encouraged by talks with the government on the possibility of re-opening its clinics in Rakhine State.

MSF International president Dr Joanne Liu arrived in Myanmar on March 16 to participate in the talks about resuming operations in Rakhine, which was facing “a humanitarian crisis,” the organisation said in a statement released on March 24.

“I have been encouraged by the open dialogue in the past few weeks on how MSF can work more closely with the Ministry of Health to deliver vital life-saving medical assistance to the people of Rakhine,” Dr Liu was quoted as saying in the statement.

It said the talks had focussed on “the need to maintain essential medical services for the many hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in the state currently facing a humanitarian medical crisis”.

As well as participating in the talks in Nay Pyi Taw, Dr Liu had been invited to take part in a high-level Union Government and joint UN-INGO visit to the Rakhine State capital, Sittwe, as well as Mrauk U and Minbya.

“I was able to have productive conversations with authorities and community leaders about working with them to improve mutual understanding and acceptance of MSF activities in the state, which remains a serious challenge,” she said.

Before its activities in Rakhine were suspended by the government on February 26, MSF Holland had provided medical services to about 700,000 people, including about 200,000 living in camps for the internally displaced and in isolated villages, the statement said.

“MSF Holland was the largest and widest-reaching INGO working in health in Rakhine and has been present for 20 years,” Dr Liu said.

“Over 100 of our medical staff, comprising doctors, nurses and midwives have now left the state, our activities remain suspended and all our clinics are closed,” she said.

“While the Ministry of Health has taken positive steps to fill the enormous gap created by the suspension, to replace a programme of this size and in this context is a considerable challenge. Many medical needs remain untreated,” said Dr Liu, who left Myanmar on March 23.