More than half a million Rohingya people have fled Myanmar during the last few months. Among them, there are thousands of pregnant women. They have endured immense hardship as they made their perilous journey to Bangladesh, many traveling on foot through jungle, while braving monsoon rains and intense heat.
Rashida (25) is nine months pregnant and due to give birth any day. She arrived at Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in October with her husband and three children (age five, four and two and a half).
“It took us nine days to get here and my legs and my whole body ached on the long journey. There was no food or water. I only had a few snacks to give to my children. We had to drink from waterfalls. Because we were being chased I didn’t know where my parents were. My husband fell behind, because he had to carry the three children.”
Ayesha Khatun (22) is nine months pregnant and arrived at Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar with her inlaws in October. We spoke to her on the day she arrived as she sat near a rice field, close to the camp distribution centre. As she waited to register with around 50 other new arrivals she told us of her ordeal to get here.
“I had to leave home at night, it was raining hard. We had a tarpaulin which we used for shelter. To get here, we walked for six days. We ate only when people gave us food on the way. So far I haven’t seen a doctor or taken any medicine.”
Nur Begum (22) arrived at Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in September together with her husband, mother, father and her two year old daughter. Eleven family members came in total. Their house was torched and their cattle stolen.
“I was scared when we fled, because there were many reports of babies being killed. If someone had a baby in their lap, they would be taken from them, slaughtered, or thrown into the fire,” says Nur who is nine months pregnant.
Sajeda Begum (20) arrived at Balukhala camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh in August. She is nine months pregnant and has just received her first medical check-up during her pregnancy. This will be her first baby. Sajeda has no relatives here. It took her two days to get to Bangladesh.
“Though I had to walk for two days to come to Bangladesh during the last stage of my pregnancy, I had to save my life. It makes me happy to think that my baby will be born here, where there are no atrocities happening. My husband can’t come here, so that is one of the worries I have, but who can I express this to?”
Sakina (24) arrived at Balukhali camp in September. She has two children. “We wouldn’t have come here if our village hadn’t been attacked. Even before that, they cut off our water supply and gas pipes, broke our utensils and took away our cows. They wanted to make our life miserable so that we would leave, and we resisted as long as we could. But then they set our house on fire.”
“I left with only the clothes I had on, life is precious. It took me five days to reach Bangladesh. I could only walk slowly, because I am pregnant. In that situation, when we were running for our lives I didn’t feel hungry. Arriving here made me happy, it felt like we have the world in our hands reaching here.”
Meenara Begum, 20, is nine months pregnant and is close to her due date. Together with her husband and two children she fled to Bangladesh and is now living in Balukhali refugee camp in the Bengal district of Cox’s Bazaar. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Rohingya have taken refuge there. “I feel safe here”, says Meenara, “we are not being chased anymore.”
Plan International is on the ground in Balukhali settlement, Cox’s Bazar, providing vital hygiene supplies and information to reduce the spread and transmission of disease. The organisation’s response has already reached 60,000 people – more than half of them women and girls. 10,000 hygiene kits have been distributed, and 12,000 dignity kits will soon be provided. 700 latrines with separate cubicles for men and women have been built, along with 200 female friendly bathing facilities.
In 2018, Plan International’s response will focus on supporting separated and unaccompanied children, reuniting them with their families, and providing learning and life skills support to children and adolescent girls and boys. In total its response will reach 250,000 people.