Dhaka – The UN children’s agency has said nearly 60 babies are being born in refugee camps in Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are sheltered.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund said in a statement on Thursday that one in five children had the luck to get delivered at health facilities while the rest were delivered in squalid settlements built on hill slopes in south-eastern Bangladeshi district of Cox’s Bazar.
“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.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar military launched a military crackdown in northern Rakhine state in August. The refugees have been living in tents built of bamboo shafts and tarpaulins.
The UNICEF says more than 16,000 Rohingya babies have been born in the camps since the influx of Rohingya Muslims began nine months ago.
There were widespread reports of rape and sexual violence against women and girls, Beigbeder said in the statement adding that it was impossible to know the true number of babies who have been born as a result of sexual violence.
“But it is vital that each and every new and expectant mother and every new-born receive all the help and support they need.”
The United Nations termed the military crackdown as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The women and children, who are survivors of sexual violence, require specialised support, added the statement.
The agency has mobilised 250 community volunteers to make sure that a growing number of women visit the health care facilities before and after giving birth.
UNICEF has also been advocating for proper, legal birth registration for newborns, concerned that without this, babies will have trouble accessing the vital basic services they are entitled to.
The ‘invisibility’ of non-registered children increases their vulnerability and the risk that violations of their rights will go unnoticed. During times of conflict and unrest, providing newborn children with birth registration is a matter of urgent priority.
Children unregistered at birth or without identification documents are often excluded from accessing education, health care and social security, the UNICEF statement added.