HOPE Builds Hope for Rohingya Refugee Women and Children

By: Melissa Gradilla

Every Mother Counts’ grantee partner, HOPE Foundation for Women and Children, is inaugurating a new field hospital this week. Located in the world’s largest refugee camp, where nearly one million refugees reside, the Hope Field Hospital for Women (HFHW) will be based in the Cox’s Bazar District of Bangladesh — a setting where approximately 70% of refugees are women and children. The HFHW will be the first field hospital of its kind, delivering inpatient and outpatient care 24/7 to women and children of Rohingya settlements and surrounding communities.

Photo by HOPE Foundation for Women and Children

Fleeing religious and ethnic persecution, Rohingya refugees arrived in the Cox’s Bazar District over a year ago in what was considered the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crisis since the Rwandan Genocide. Facing an uncertain future, Rohingya refugees today continue to live in dire conditions, with limited access to safe drinking water, adequate food, transportation, schools, and basic health services. From June through October, during the monsoon season in Bangladesh, heavy rains and mass flooding exacerbate the challenges this population already experiences by threatening their fragile shelters and further limiting their access to basic needs.

Rohingya refugee women and children, like most displaced women and children in humanitarian settings, experience added barriers. Children in Cox’s Bazar are at higher risk of waterborne diseases, suffer from acute and chronic malnutrition, and have a stunting rate of nearly 40%. For women, access to essential maternal and reproductive health services is a major concern; at the end of February, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated over 50,000 pregnant Rohingya refugee women in Cox’s Bazar, a disproportionately high number for the size of the total population in the area. Despite humanitarian efforts in place to address immediate health needs of Rohingya refugees, health facilities are limited in number, hard to reach, and are often not adequately resourced to provide services to women and children.

Dr. Iftikher Mahmood, Founder of HOPE Foundation for Women & Children of Bangladesh (right)

Built in response to growing needs of Rohingya refugee women and children, the construction and inauguration of the HFHW is a striking first step towards health improvements in Cox’s Bazar. As a field and gender-segregated hospital, the HFWH will be centrally located in a critical area of need within the camps, and will create a safe health care zone for women and children. The hospital will focus on providing quality maternity care and will also work to scale up sexual and reproductive health services by increasing knowledge and cultural acceptability. The HFWH will have an operating room and lab, x-ray, pediatric, sexual and reproductive health services as well as provide emergency transportation services when needed. In a setting where women are also at an increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence and often do not seek health services due to safety concerns, the impact of a facility that specifically provides a safe space for them can be immeasurable.

Photo by HOPE Foundation for Women and Children

Every Mother Counts (EMC) has been working with HOPE Foundation since 2015, supporting their efforts on the ground to advance maternal health improvements by providing pregnancy and safe delivery care, as well as postnatal and newborn care, including immunizations, health screenings, breastfeeding support, and family planning. Prior to the beginning of the Rohingya refugee crisis, Cox’s Bazar had among the worst maternal health outcomes in Bangladesh; With a large population influx to this underserved area prone to extreme weather conditions, existing high rates of maternal deaths may only worsen. With two grants in 2017–2018, EMC continues to work with HOPE Foundation to specifically support emergency preparedness training and response, in addition to the growing health needs of Rohingya refugee women.

EMC applauds HOPE’s invaluable efforts to advance the health and well-being of women and children.

Learn more here about the HOPE Field Hospital for Women.

Topics: Maternal Health, Refugees