UN mobilizes in Rohingya camps to support babies born of rape; young mothers face stigma

UNHCR/Roger Arnold
A Rohingya woman crosses the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh near the village of Anzuman Para in Palong Khali.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

Despite challenges brought on by the arrival of the monsoon season this month, United Nations agencies in Bangladesh continue to support nearly one million Rohingya refugees, including thousands of victims of sexual violence.

Members of the mainly-Muslim minority community began fleeing Myanmar’s Rakhine state last August following a military crackdown targeting extremists, during which homes were destroyed, men and boys killed, and countless women and girls raped.

In early May, UN News published a special report highlighting the concerns being voiced by several leading UN officials over the legacy of what Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, described as a “frenzy of sexual violence”.

On Tuesday, the world marks the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, and we have been finding out how some of the survivors have been coping, now that dozens of children of rape have been born – and what UN agencies are doing to provide them with vital services and support.

“Sameera” (not her real name) is among the Rohingya refugees now sheltering in the crowded camps of the Cox’s Bazar region in south-eastern Bangladesh.

The 17-year-old had only been married for a couple of months when her husband was killed.

She was raped just days after his death, when three soldiers showed up at her door, together with two other Rohingya girls, who were also raped.

“As I will give birth to the baby, he or she will be mine, no matter who the father is,” she told the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

‘Forgotten victims of war’

Since August, more than 16,000 babies have been born in the refugee camps, according to the UN agency.

It is difficult to determine exactly how many were conceived through rape, said Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

“You also have the stigma of a pregnancy as a result of rape which makes it very hard for (women) to come out openly with the fact of their pregnancy,” she told UN News last month, shortly after returning from a mission to the Kutupalong camp, one of the largest refugee camps in the world.

“And in fact, there are many reports from local Rohingyas that many girls, especially young adolescents, are actually hiding the fact of their pregnancy and will never seek medical care, for example, for the delivery.”

UNICEF has collected testimonies from several women and girls like “Sameera,” whose children are among what UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called the “forgotten victims of war.”

Conceived through conflict-related rape, these boys and girls grow up struggling with their identity, or fall victim to stigma and shame. At the same time, their mothers are marginalized or even shunned by their communities.

For the past three years, the UN has designated 19 June as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict to promote solidarity with survivors.

Ms. Patten’s office is co-hosting an event at UN Headquarters in New York to mark Tuesday’s international day, where strategies will be discussed on how to change the perception that these children and their mothers are somehow complicit in crimes committed by the groups that violated them.

Midwives and monsoons

Back in Bangladesh, the arrival of the monsoon winds and rains just over a week ago is making life even more difficult for the Rohingya refugees and the humanitarians assisting them.

More than 720,000 Rohingya have arrived in Cox’s Bazar as of the end of May, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), joining some 200,000 others who had fled earlier waves of persecution and discrimination.

UN agencies are responding to the overwhelming needs, though a $951 million humanitarian plan is less than 20 per cent funded.

Since the start of the crisis, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has deployed 60 highly skilled midwives to the area who are also trained in clinical management of rape and family planning counselling.

Nineteen women-friendly spaces have also been created in the camps.

UNFPA said key among “protection challenges” is scaling up assistance to survivors of gender-based violence, and other vulnerable populations, including through psychosocial support and counselling, and psychological first aid.

So far, 47,000 Rohingya mothers-to-be have received antenatal check-ups while 1,700 babies were safely delivered in clinics supported by the Fund.

UNFPA recently Tweeted that its midwifery and reproductive health services were still available “24/7” even though there was no electricity in the camps.

“Midwives and case workers have weathered the storms and walked on slippery and waterlogged roads to our facilities,” its office in Bangladesh further reported.

Reluctance to return

Meanwhile, an agreement signed earlier this month by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the UN Development Fund (UNDP) and the Government of Myanmar could pave the way for thousands of Rohingya to return home.

It also will give the two UN entities access to Rakhine State.

Knut Ostby, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, said the most important conditions for the safe and voluntary return of the refugees are citizenship rights and an end to violence.

Though resident in Myanmar for centuries, the mostly Muslim Rohingya are stateless.

“There will need to be programmes for reconciliation, for social cohesion. And these will have to be linked to development programmes.  It is not enough to deal with this politically,” he told UN News.

However, Rohingya women and girls are wary about going back to Myanmar, according to Ms. Patten.

“They would be prepared to return only if they have full citizenship rights, but they doubt whether that’s possible. They are very realistic about it,” she said, while also echoing their concerns about safety.

“They all seem to request some kind of a UN mission presence in Myanmar should they go back. But they do not look very hopeful. It’s not the first time that there has been this kind of exodus. And for them, there’s simply no trust.”

Ms. Patten said overall, the Rohingya refugees are pinning their hopes on possible action by the UN Security Council.

A delegation of the 15 ambassadors travelled to Bangladesh and Myanmar just ahead of her visit to Cox’s Bazar.

“Now they put a face to the Security Council,” she said.  “And they are expecting no less that the members of the Security Council translate their shock and their outrage into concrete action.”

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

‘Every ventilator becomes like gold’ – a doctor’s stark warning from Italy’s Coronavirus outbreak

Medical Education is #NotATarget

Indonesian tsunami death toll climbs over 400 as Government-led relief efforts are stepped up

Supply chains have been upended. Here’s how to make them more resilient

World food security increasingly at risk due to ‘unprecedented’ climate change impact, new UN report warns

Bank resolutions set to remain a national affair

UN Children’s Fund chief condemns ‘horrific’ Kabul bomb attack

‘Terrorist Iranian regime’ must be checked; Saudi Foreign Minister urges financial pressure

UN rights office calls on Zimbabwe Government to end ‘crackdown’ in response to fuel protests

UN agriculture agency digs in to help forests and farms build resilience to climate change

The EU Parliament and the ECB unknowingly or unwillingly fail to protect our financial assets

Korea should adapt its migration programmes to ensure continued success in the face of expected challenges

COVID-19 is a threat to waste pickers. Here’s how to help them

Those who produce food are among world’s hungriest – UN rights expert

Job automation risks vary widely across different regions within countries

Counterfeiters are taking advantage of the pandemic. Here’s how to stop them

As fighting in Libya escalates, so does number of children ‘at imminent risk of injury or death’

10 of Albert Einstein’s best quotes

Draghi: A bridge from Brussels to Berlin

Draghi’s top new year resolution: Quantitative Easing

TTIP: why it is worth not to pull the covers over your head?

How to future-proof India’s economy

The children’s continent: keeping up with Africa’s growth

How energy infrastructure is shaping geopolitics in East Asia

Protection of transported animals: Parliament establishes inquiry committee

Budget Committee backs €2.3 million worth of aid to help 550 redundant media workers in Greece

Amid pandemic detours, mental health matters

FROM THE FIELD: Liberia boosts efforts to guard against rising seas

Vaccination: European Commission and World Health Organization join forces to promote the benefits of vaccines

Who’s promised net-zero, and who looks likely to get there?

‘Ghost fishing’ is threatening our oceans. Here’s how we can tackle it

Brazil: A strategic partner for the EU

Mental health in the pandemic: it’s no Rubik’s cube

A clean energy future with hydrogen could be closer than we think

These 5 charts show our shifting behaviour around coronavirus

If a virus could sing … Could this musical version of COVID-19 help us defeat the disease?

Venezuela migrant crisis begs a ‘coherent, predictable and harmonized’ response: UNHCR

5 ways students can graduate fully qualified for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

REACT-EU: EU support to mitigate immediate effects of the COVID-19 crisis

The EU stops being soft with 10 Downing Street about Brexit

Europe’s dirty air kills 400,000 people every year

Why the world is not as globalized as you think

“Be aware where you put your I Agree signature on and something else”; now Facebook by default opts you in an unseen private data bazar

State aid: Commission approves €286 million Finnish measure to recapitalise Finnair

Topic: Mental Health in times of pandemic: What can each individual do to lessen the burden?

The European Brain Drain: a truth or a myth?

How data can help mining companies tackle their trust deficit

Algorithmic warfare is coming. Humans must retain control

EU prepares a banking union amidst financial ruins

Efforts to save the planet must start with the Antarctic

How digital identity can improve lives in a post-COVID-19 world

Medical ethics in the age of the social media influencers

Three reasons to be optimistic for the future of Asia

Commission supports normalisation in Greece through activation of post-programme framework

Execution of juvenile offender in Iran ‘deeply distressing’ – UN rights chief

Chernobyl nuclear disaster-affected areas spring to life, 33 years on

Blockchain could boost global trade by $1 trillion

Why rich countries are seeing more poverty

5 charts that explain big challenges facing Italy’s new government

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s