Birth of around 60 Rohingya babies at camps in Cox’s Bazar per day became a cause of concern for Bangladesh, said officials, in the backdrop of the government and the international community struggling to handle one of the world’s worst refugee crisis.
UNICEF in a statement said on Thursday that more than 16,000 Rohingya babies were born in camps and informal settlements in Cox’s Bazar in nine months since a spike in violence in
Rakhine State of Myanmar forced thousands of Rohingya families to flee their homes across the border.
‘Around 60 babies a day are taking their first breath in appalling conditions, away from home, to mothers who have survived displacement, violence, trauma and, at times, rape,’ UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh Edouard Beigbeder said
‘This is far from the best start in life’, he said.
As new waves of violence started in Rakhine State in August last year, there were widespread reports of rape and sexual violence against women and girls.
Women and children who are survivors of sexual violence are among the most vulnerable and marginalised, requiring specialised support and women and girls may not come forward due to the risk of stigmatisation and additional persecution, said the statement.
‘It is impossible to know the true number of babies who have been or will be born as a result of sexual violence,’ said Beigbeder.
‘But it is vital that each and every new and expectant mother and every new-born receive all the help and support they need’ he said.
Of all babies born in the camps since September, only about 3,000 – or 1 in 5 – were delivered in health facilities. Estimates suggest that only 18 per cent of mothers currently give birth in health centers, according the UNICEF statement.
Cox’s Bazar civil surgeon Abdus Salam said that UNICEF’s estimate about the birth of Rohingya camps per day almost tallies with ‘our estimates.’
‘According to our estimates around 2,000 to 2,500 Rohingya babies are born at the camps per month’ the civil surgeon told New Age on Thursday.
‘And about 30 per cent deliveries take place at local health facilities run by the government and the NGOs,’ he said.
‘Most of the deliveries take place at camps as Rohingyas don’t come to health facilities for deliveries,’ Abdus Salam said.
Family planning officials working in Cox’s Bazar expressed concern over what they called a rapid growth of Rohingya population in Bangladesh.
Family Planning deputy director in Cox’s Bazar Pintu Kanti Bhattacharjee told New Age that the birth of so many Rohingya babies at camps ‘is indeed a matter of concern for us as we have to work with limited manpower’.
Pintu said that about 1,500 Rohingya babies were born at the government’s health facilities in remote areas of Ukhia and Teknaf.
Until May 13, 21,000 Rohingya pregnant women got themselves registered with the local health facilities run by the Family Planning Department to avail delivery facilities, he said.
About one lakh Rohingya children would be born in Bangladesh in 2018, according to the World Health Organisation’s projection made in March.
Aid workers anticipate that the living conditions for the Rohingyas in the already overcrowded camps with insufficient food, water, sanitation, health facilities would deteriorate raising the risk of outbreak of diseases.
Since August 25, 2017, approximately seven lakh Rohingyas entered into Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar, according to UN agencies’ estimates.
Myanmar security forces violent campaigns against Rohingyas were denounced by the UN as ‘ethnic cleansing’.
Pintu Bhattacharjee said that the government was providing family services to Rohingya families.
And since August 25, contraceptive injections were administered to 22,000 Rohingyas every three-month, and 20,000 contraceptive pills and 3,200 condoms were among the Rohingyas to bring down the birth rate at their camps.
Now, he said, the government is motivating Rohingyas staying in Bangladesh to take to family planning.
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