Some 60 Ro­hingya ba­bies daily born in ap­palling camp con­di­tions, UN says

Since the Ro­hingya cri­sis, more than 16,000 ba­bies have been born amid ap­palling con­di­tions in vast refugee camps in Bangladesh, ac­cord­ing to UNICEF

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - International -

NEARLY 60 ba­bies a day are be­ing born in squalid refugee camps in south­east­ern Bangladesh where hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ro­hingya Mus­lims shel­ter, flee­ing vi­o­lence in neigh­bor­ing Myan­mar, the U.N. chil­dren's agency said yes­ter­day.

UNICEF said in a state­ment that since the cri­sis be­gan more than 16,000 ba­bies had been born in the camps with only about 3,000 de­liv­ered in health fa­cil­i­ties.

"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," said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF's Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Bangladesh.

There were wide­spread re­ports of rape 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. "It is im­pos­si­ble to know the true num­ber of ba­bies who have been or will be born as a re­sult of sexual vi­o­lence," he said. "It is vi­tal that each and ev­ery new and ex­pec­tant mother and ev­ery new-born re­ceive all the help and sup­port they need."

UNICEF es­ti­mates that only one in five Ro­hingya chil­dren were de­liv­ered in health fa­cil­i­ties es­tab­lished in the refugee camps. The agency has mo­bi­lized 250 com­mu­nity vol­un­teers to make sure that the women visit health care fa­cil­i­ties be­fore and af­ter giv­ing birth.

A se­nior Bangladesh health min­istry of­fi­cial, who de­clined to be named due to the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter, said last week that so far 18,300 pregnant women had been iden­ti­fied in the camps and the rough to­tal es­ti­mate was around 25,000.

Calls for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to take mea­sures against the “vis­i­ble geno­cide” fac­ing Ro­hingya Mus­lims in Myan­mar has in­creased as the mon­soon sea­son ap­proaches. In March the United Na­tions launched an ap­peal for $951 mil­lion to help the Ro­hingya refugees for the rest of the year, but it is less than 20 per­cent funded.

An es­ti­mated 700,000 Ro­hingya have fled over the border to Bangladesh since an army crack­down was launched in Rakhine state in Au­gust. Myan­mar blames Ro­hingya mil­i­tants for an Aug. 25 strike on se­cu­rity posts in Rakhine state that trig­gered a fierce army crack­down.

At least 9,000 Ro­hingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, ac­cord­ing to Doc­tors with­out Borders. In a re­port last De­cem­ber, the global hu­man­i­tar­ian group said the deaths of 71.7 per­cent, or 6,700 Ro­hingya, were caused by vi­o­lence. The death toll in­cludes 730 chil­dren be­low the age of 5.

The state­less Ro­hingya have been the tar­get of com­mu­nal vi­o­lence and vi­cious anti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ment in mainly Bud­dhist Myan­mar for years. Myan­mar has de­nied citizenship to Ro­hingya since 1982 and ex­cludes them from the 135 eth­nic groups it of­fi­cially rec­og­nizes, which ef­fec­tively ren­ders them state­less. The Ro­hingya trace their pres­ence in Rakhine back cen­turies. But most peo­ple in ma­jor­ity-Bud­dhist Myan­mar con­sider them to be un­wanted Mus­lim im­mi­grants from Bangladesh.

A Ro­hingya Mus­lim boy stands in a queue out­side a food dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter at Balukhali refugee camp, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Jan. 15.

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