Bangladesh, May 17: More than 60 babies are being born every day in the camps and informal settlements in Cox's Bazar in the nine months since a brutal Myanmar army crackdown forced thousands of families to take refuge in Bangladesh. UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency, on Wednesday, said that over 16,000 Rohingya babies have been born in Bangladesh since the violence broke out in Myanmar's restive Rakhine state in August last year.
"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 UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh Edouard Beigbeder. "This is far from the best start in life," he added. The Rohingya population in Cox's Bazar face many risks, including child labour and disease outbreaks as girls and young women are sexually exploited. More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees are languishing in Bangladeshi refugee camps after fleeing a brutal Myanmar army campaign launched in August last year.
The United Nations had said the scorched-earth operation, which had left hundreds of villages burned to ash in Myanmar's Rakhine state, amounted to 'ethnic cleansing'. According to the UNICEF women and children who have survived sexual violence are among the most vulnerable and marginalized in the refugee community. "It is impossible to know the true number of babies who have been or will be born as a result of sexual violence," said Beigbeder, adding, "But it is vital that each and every new and expectant mother and every new-born receive all the help and support they need."