THERE ARE AROUND 130 babies born to Rohingya mothers in the refugee camps in Bangladesh every day. That’s just below 50,000 a year – according to figures from Save the Children.
These babies are facing some of the biggest hu
rdles to survival faced by any baby in the world. Not all the families in the camps have adequate shelter. They certainly don’t have access to adequate food and water.
There’s a lack of medicine and medical treatment facilities too – a particular risk for newborns, who are not equipped to fend off diseases such as measles and cholera because of the high rate of malnutrition. Just after Christmas it was revealed that there was a serious outbreak of diphtheria in the camps. Most western children don’t even encounter diphtheria, as inoculation against it is commonplace.
An estimated 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have been driven out of Myanmar by the actions of the military – bringing the number of refugees existing around Cox’s Bazar on the Myanmar/Bangladesh border to an esimated 855,000. The refugees face a harsh choice: death at the hands of the Myanmar military, or struggle to stay alive in the camps of Bangladesh.
The problems in the camps are ones of infrastructure as well as supplies. There’s not enough food to go round, and malnourished refugees are thus susceptible to disease. The haphazard arrival of the refugees means that the camps are informal clusters of human beings, without clear ways through, no account taken of how to deal with rainfall and – worst of all – virtually no sanitation.
The rain, when it comes, mixes with the earth and the too-ing and fro-ing churns it up into squelching deep mud – which mixes with the contents of the many open sewers and the rubbish which is waiting for someone to work out how to dispose of it. The giant, infected substructure seeps bacteria into what water boreholes there are and attracts insects which spread disease. Everyone finds it hard to survive in these conditions, but children – and especially newborns whose mothers may be too malnourished to produce milk – have all the odds stacked against them.
The politicians could tackle the causes of this human suffering, but we cannot wait for them to do so. Human Appeal has renewed its call for the public to donate to its winter appeal. The funds collected by the charity are keeping many of the Rohingya alive.
Information from Human Appeal.
•To donate to Human Appeal’s winter appeal, go to:
•Read more about it:
Rohingya: the “crisis of children”