Nine months on, the search for Rohingya babies born of mass rapes in Myanmar
Ukhia :Aid workers are scouring the world’s largest refugee camp for pregnant Rohingya rape victims, with a rush of births anticipated nine months after Myanmar forces unleashed “a frenzy of sexual violence” against women and girls from the Muslim minority.
Specialists and Rohingya volunteers are racing against time to find women in the giant camp who are thought to be hiding their pregnancies out of shame, as fears grow that newborns could be abandoned and new mothers may die without care in coming weeks.
Tosminara, herself a Rohingya refugee, has spent months coaxing these women out of the shadows, promising discretion.
“We tell them a password they can use when they arrive at the hospital or health post. The guard then sends the woman directly to the right spot,” said Tosminara, who goes by one name.
“They often are shy. Sometimes they are afraid to come forward.”
The Myanmar army crackdown last August drove roughly 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh and the number of pregnancies resulting from rape is not known.
But UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said there would “inevitably” be a spike in births soon given the “frenzy of sexual violence in August and September last year”.
Marcella Kraay of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also said “a fair number of pregnancies” were expected.
An estimated 48,000 women will give birth in the camps this year. Those who were raped will be delivering imminently, mostly in secret and without medical care on the floors of bamboo shacks overlooking the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
Rohingya community leader Abdur Rahim said he knew two women personally who were raped by soldiers and due within the month. He had heard rumours of many others in a similar position, he added.
“The Myanmar military raped them. These babies are… evidence of their crimes,” he told AFP.