By Sana Elouazi
Rabat – Facing a “baby boom” among Rohigya refugees, Bangladesh plans to launch a campaign of voluntary sterilizations to limit the population explosion in the impoverished camps in the district of Cox’s Bazar, after the failure of contraceptive distribution, reported AFP.
Around 900,000 Rohingya Muslims from Burma are clustering in tent cities in southern Bangladesh, where more than 600,000 have arrived since the end of August to flee what the United Nations regards as ethnic cleansing.
According to UN estimates, up to 20,000 Rohingya women are currently pregnant, and nearly 600 have reportedly given birth since they arrived in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar camps.
Contraceptive distribution and sexual awareness campaigns do not seem to be bearing fruit as refugee camps are becoming overcrowded.
To stem this demographic explosion, the district’s family planning services has therefore suggested more radical methods to the government, such as carrying out vasectomies for men and tubal ligatures for women on voluntary basis.
A health committee for the camp will have to agree before launching any sterilization program.
Pintu Kanti Bhattacharjee,head of family planning service in Cox’s Bazar, told the news agency that Rohingya families are generally large; many Rohingya men have several wives and some parents have up to 19 children, which could worsen the living conditions in the crowded camps.
As Rohingya Muslims were marginalized for decades in Burma and were denied access to hospitals and schools, their knowledge about birth control is very limited, and some consider it a “sin.”
“Sterilization of males is the best way to control the population. If a man is sterilized, he can not have children even if he marries four or five times,” says Bhattacharjee.
“In Rakhine, they did not go to family planning clinics, fearing that the Burmese authorities would give them drugs that would hurt them or their children,” Farhana Sultana, a family planning volunteer who works with Rohingya refugees in the camps, told AFP.
According to the news agency, soon after giving birth to a baby, women plan to have another, because they think that pregnancy is a protection against rape or aggression. A pregnant woman is less likely to be targeted by the military or the attackers.
“Trapped in camps that they can not leave, banned from working in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees have only sex as a “distraction” said another a human rights activist.