After being forcibly displaced from Myanmar, 25-years old Sulaiman got married to teenager Nure Kayda last year in the refugee camp. Now they have a three month old daughter. Sulaiman, teacher of a learning centre at camp 15, said: “A child is a gift from Allah, and we wanted it so that we can forget our sorrow.” Health care professionals working at the camps in Cox’s Bazar said ‘‘Although there are multi – level approaches to generate awareness among these people about birth control methods, it seems like we have failed to some extent.’’
In a recently published population report on displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said some 91,000 children were born inside the camps after the latest Rohingya exodus in 2017.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 723,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017. On 28 September 2018, at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said there are 1.1 million Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh.
According to Inter-sectoral coordination Group (ISCG), some 911,566 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar while 905,754 refugees were identified in camps according to Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission- (RRRC-UNHCR) Registration exercise (including 34,172 registered before 31 Aug 2017).
Additional Commissioner of the (RRRC) Office Shamsuddoja Nayan said UNHCR reported that some 91,000 children were born in Rohingya camps in the last two years.
Around 30,000 of them are under the age of one. And some 61,000 children are under two years, he added.
The family planning district unit said, despite their hectic effort to raise awareness about the importance of birth control, it appears that Rohingya refugees are not interested in the matter.
An NGO health care outreach volunteer from the host community said, while working with an International NGOs, she found that they could convince women to adopt birth control methods, but their partners did not let them do so, saying it is against their religious belief.
The reporter found the same while talking to 52 years old Rohingya Abdul Majid, who took shelter in Madhuchhara camp of Ukhiya. He said, “A child is a gift of Allah and it is unethical to stop the birth of a child by taking medicines.”
Dr Borhan Uddin working in camp 11 said they have observed that most of the pregnant woman near the Friendship hospital in the camp came to take treatment during their pregnancy, many of them even came four times before the child birth.
Dr Ayesha Kabir working at camp 29 in Teknaf said: “Rohingya women are more prone to pregnancy. They do not like to discuss about family planning. The refugee problem is becoming more and more complex. Most of them gave birth in the shelter,” she added.
The family planning unit of Cox’s Bazar said, the government is taking three approaches — condom, contraceptive pills and injections.
Aid workers of family planning said the women are not willing to use pills. Condom and injections are being used by some of the refugees.
Civil Surgeon of the district Abdul Matin said: “There is no exact figure of childbirth inside the camps.”
Asked about any registration procedure, he replied in the negative.
Meanwhile, Dr Pintu Kanti Bhattacharya, Deputy Director of the family planning unit of the district, said they found some 34,480 pregnant women in the first three months of exodus. Among them, only 5,000 gave birth to the health care facilities in the camps and adjacent health care facilities. Rest gave birth in the shelter camps.
Sources said some five organizations are providing child birth care in camp 11, where more than 400 children were born in Friendship birth care centre alone.
Dr Pintu Kanti Bhattacharya said: “According to our information at least 70,000 children have taken birth in this two year.”
He however claimed, the women and girls are now more conscious than before.
He said some 68,000 Rohingya women took injection, while 65,000 women were provided with contraceptive pills. Besides, some 6,000 women took three years’ and five years’ injection plan till date.
Pintu said, according to their information, there are 10,000 women pregnant inside the camp at the moment.
However, the civil surgeon said the level of awareness is not very hopeful, as the level of using birth control method only rose to 36 percent from 13 percent.