Since August 2017, more than 625,000 members of the Rohingya minority have been driven from their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine State into refugee camps in southern Bangladesh.
The majority of these refugees are women and girls, who are often fleeing horrific sexual violence. Many arrive in the camps without even a change of clothes, but, like women and girls everywhere, they need access to menstrual hygiene products, contraception and maternal health services. And the threat of violence does not disappear when they leave Myanmar. Women and girls remain at risk of rape and assault in the overcrowded camps of Cox’s Bazar.
In this episode of Deeply Talks, Dr. Hassan Abdi, a UNFPA sexual and reproductive health specialist based in Cox’s Bazar, and journalist Katie Arnold, who has reported on the crisis for Women & Girls, discuss the challenges of providing sexual and reproductive healthcare to women and girls during the Rohingya crisis.
“Midwives are the true heroes on the ground,” Abdi says. “Working around the clock to meet the needs of pregnant women, the new mothers and the newborns.”
“Supporting so many women needing care and support under such challenging and resource-limited conditions is personally difficult for them. They are human too, and they are affected by the suffering they witness.”
Both Abdi and Arnold expressed concern for the year ahead, as the details remain unclear on whether a memorandum of understanding signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh to allow for the return of Rohingya refugees to Rakhine State will actually work, and as the UNFPA faces an $8.3 million funding gap.
“Almost all humanitarian organizations have struggled to raise enough money to meet the current needs of the Rohingya population, let alone their needs over a protracted period of time,” Arnold said.
Deeply Talks is a regular feature, bringing together our network of readers and expert contributors to examine the latest developments on issues affecting women and girls in the developing world. To join future Deeply Talks, make sure you are signed up to the Women & Girls newsletter.