Babies born in Balukhali camp often come into the world with no clothes, no clean water to be bathed in and nowhere for their birth to be registered. They are the unseen, stateless children of the Rohingya.
Anwara, 17, gave birth 7 days ago. She arrived at Balukhali camp in the first week of September.
“We fled because people were shooting at us. It took us 5 days to get here. Sometimes I slipped back and my stomach hurt. It was a hard journey.
“I’ve only been married for a year and I’m so worried about my husband. I try to get information about him, but I can’t – there is no way to.
“During the day, I look after my daughter. She’s got a rash… I can’t go to the doctor because the queues are long and I can’t stand for long periods of time.”
Dilduha, 23, arrived at Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh in September. Her baby boy is 7 days old.
“Our house was set on fire so we fled. It was a long, hard journey. We slept in fishermen’s huts and hid in the jungle, as well as in the hills.
“At the moment my son is not very well and I’m worried about him, so that is my main concern. I didn’t have any clothes to dress him in when he was born.”
Mondaz, 26, cradles her 22-day-old daughter in her arms.
“People were burning houses in our area, that was why we left. It took us 8 days to get here, hiding in the hills and the forest. We had to stay on an island too. We were too scared to sleep.
“I had to go to hospital to give birth because I was having difficulties during labour. It was in the neighbouring camp, and I stayed in overnight. I was meant to go back for a check-up after 4 to 5 days, but I haven’t been because I can’t afford to.”
Jomila, 25, arrived at Balukhali camp in the first week of September. Her baby is 8 days old.
“Three days after I gave birth I was in severe pain. I was close to death, so my husband managed to get me to the hospital. I’m still taking medicine to help me get better.
“My husband goes to collect water every day. He sleeps during the day now, because at night time he volunteers with 4 other men to protect the area. We heard that there are people with weapons who have been coming into the camp at night, so we’re ready if they come here.”
Aisha, 20, arrived at Balukhali camp about a month ago.
“I gave birth 5 days after I arrived. After walking for days I reached the border, but the army wouldn’t allow me to cross the river. I felt so ill I thought I was going to die. It wasn’t until I started to cry, that they helped me across.
“I have one other daughter, aged 4, and one son, aged 3. They are both really sick now. One has a fever and the other has diarrhoea.
“It’s very cold here at night and I don’t have enough to keep the baby warm. I couldn’t bring anything with me from home – the house was burned to the ground.”
Yasmin, 20, gave birth to her daughter 3 days after arriving at the camp. Her baby is now 15 days old.
“Our tent wasn’t even built when I gave birth. One older lady and my sister helped me with the delivery. We just had to cover the area as best we could to try and get some privacy.
“It was a very sudden labour so I had no time to go anywhere else. Also, it was raining, so the ground was just completely flooded. We weren’t even able to cook because there was no firewood. I feel very weak and my baby isn’t doing so well either.
“I’m having difficulty producing enough milk for her, so I have to supplement her feeding with rice-water.”
Rashida, 27, gave birth to her daughter three days ago. She arrived at the camp seven days before that with her four other children.
“Our children have no clothes. My daughter is getting sick – she has diarrhoea. We just have to wash her clothes when she soils them – we don’t have any nappies. There was no water here when we arrived, and no toilets either. We dug a hole to get water, but it was dirty. So it’s been hard to keep things clean when the water itself is dirty.”
Over 640,000 people have fled Myanmar the majority of them women and children.
Plan International is on the ground in Balukhali camp providing aid to children and families. We’ve distributed 10,000 hygiene kits and installed 700 toilets to help people cope with the new living situation they have found themselves in.
Our teams have built 200 segregated bathing spaces and are soon to distribute 12,000 dignity kits for girls and women to help them keep healthy and safe.
But there is much more work to be done.