Rohingya Crisis And Our Role
Necessity of family planning among the Rohingyas
Around 60,000 Rohingya children are born this year in the refugee camps at Ukhiya, Cox's Bazaar. It's a year since a massive influx of Rohingya refugees started pouring into Bangladesh and taking shelter in Bangladesh. When the women came in Bangladesh, a large amount of them were pregnant and many were the rape victims by the military of Myanmar. As a result, an alarming rate of women has given birth to children in an overpopulated country when their future is at stake.
Not only their future is uncertain, their living condition is also poor. They all live together in a small shelter. It makes them vulnerable to contagious diseases. Many Rohingyas are diagnosed with HIV positive. They are also malnourished. Due to the shortage of toilets and unhygienic lifestyle, they suffer from diarrhea, cholera etc.
Being a doctor in the camps of Cox's Bazaar with the ICDDR,B, Dr Monzur Hussain Chowdhury had the chance to talk to a few women. Among, them a few are conscious about family planning and many need counseling.
Morium Bibi lived her entire life under the extreme restrictions of Rakhine state of Myanmar. She was not allowed to go to school and got married young.She had a baby in Myanmar, and was eight months pregnant with her second baby, when she crossed the border and entered Bangladesh. Morium Bibi has thought hard since then and discussed with her husband about their future. Their shelter is cramped, and their future is uncertain."Three children is a nice family size," she says. After that, I don't want any more. What I want is to learn something. When we will go back home I'd like to be able to work, not just look after children.
Dr Monzur: How many children do you have?
Noor Fatima (Rohingya refugee), a 23-year old: "Only six."
Dr Monzur: Why six?
She said, "If Allah blesses me, what can I do!" And she will not take any contraceptive, because she believes children are the blessings of Allah.
Some of the women told me that if a woman was pregnant, she had less chance of being targeted by the military or attackers.
Rohingya women have no idea what birth control is! There is no access to birth control in Myanmar's Rakhine state. Contraceptives are unpopular among Rohingyas largely for lack of education and awareness about family planning. Every Rohingya couple has six to seven children on an average. Besides, child marriage is pervasive in the community, which leads to poor health of mother and child.
Since Myanmar is reluctant to take back their nationals and puts many restrictions on the repatriation process, the newborn children's future will be dark. Bangladesh has done a lot on the humanitarian ground and NGOs and international organizations are providing with funding for their safe, better health and education, but it will be difficult for the country to ensure higher education, when the country itself is struggling with its overpopulation and securing their education and job. It's high time we promoted family planning in the Rohingya camps to esnure them a healthy life.
Birth control measures such as using contraceptives, condom and ligation are the best ways to control childbirth. Again, family planning is a matter of individual's choice, and should be completely voluntary. Nevertheless, raising awareness among them is our duty to save them from the upcoming gloom. The organizations that are working for them could arrange for a day-long programme where they would speak to the families individually and make them aware of the consequences of over population, unhealthy life and their future risks.
Raihana Sayeeda Kamal is with The Daily Observer and Dr Monzur Hussain Chowdhury is Medical Officer at ICDDR,B