The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Improving maternal health in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh is more critical…

Since August, over 800,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for sanctuary in Bangladesh. (Photos by Josh Estey)

Every Mother Counts deployed an emergency grant from the Maternal & Child Health Emergency Fund for $35,000 to HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh to address the urgent needs of the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Our Maternal & Child Health Emergency Fund allows for us to quickly respond to women and children during times of natural disaster, armed conflict and public health crises.

The Rohingya refugees have fled their homes in Myanmar following the military ethnic cleansing crusade of massacre, rape and torture. Many of these refugees are mothers, some of whom are pregnant or have small children, and have traveled over 150 miles by foot — arriving to the displacement camps sick from mental and physical stress, starvation and injury.

Dr. Iftikher Mahmood, founder of HOPE Foundation and Every Mother Counts’ grantee partner since 2015, is working to address the health care needs of the Rohingya refugees. HOPE Foundation, in conjunction with the UNFPA and additional funders, has mobilized to provide medical care on-site in the camps through six medical centers – delivering emergency care, primary health care and maternal health care. They have also set up mobile health teams, transporting patients to facilities for further care, and have deployed a large number of health workers to the area. By mid-December, there will be a 40-bed field hospital.

This past October, humanitarian photographer Josh Estey traveled to Cox’s Bazar to shed light on the experience of being pregnant in an already vulnerable situation, as well as to highlight the care being provided by HOPE Foundation. Here are some of the stories:

“My name is Halida Begum, I am 22 and have three children. I am nine months pregnant and plan on giving birth at the Hope Clinic here in the camp…I don’t know what the future holds for me and my children now that we have lost our homes.”
“My name is Romida Begum, I’m 25. I’m nine-months pregnant and have a one-year old child. I have spent 20 days in the camp after fleeing my home and crossing the border into Bangladesh.”
“The women can come here and give birth, but most will simply give birth in their tents. So we supply them with sterile equipment like plastic, a sheet, and new scalpel for cutting the umbilical cord. We still encourage them to come to us, but for many they are more comfortable having birth in their tents and calling us to come and help with their home delivery.” — Sharifa Khatum, 23, HOPE midwife with refugee Romida Begum, nine months pregnant.
Showkat Arar, 10, has been at the refugee camp for ten days. She witnessed the military kill her father and brother. She broke her arm while crawling away to safety. She spent five days fleeing the attacks on her journey to Bangladesh with her mother and little brother before eventually crossing the border and finally seeing a doctor for medical attention.
Sanura Begum age 22. “I watched my husband and two year old baby slaughtered by the military. We trekked for 8 days before arriving in this camp 25 days ago. I want to receive training so I can work, but I have too many kids to look out after.”
Samira Begum, 22, is seven-months pregnant. She has been in the camp for a month after violence erupted on the other side of her village, forcing her to flee to Bangladesh.
Ruma Rani Banik, 22, is a HOPE Foundation Hospital midwife and is working in one of the six field clinics. She was trained at Hope and graduated from the three-year midwifery program.
Kataja, 21, is five months pregnant and has had no previous pre-natal care. This is her first visit to any kind of health facility and she is suffering from vertigo. She is receiving iron tablets as well as getting her first prenatal checkup.
Rashida Begum, 30, had just given birth at the hospital and had a normal and healthy delivery.
Amina Begum, 25, was the first person to give birth to a child at the HOPE health post. “He is my first child and a boy, which makes me so happy,” said Amina. Weighing in at 2.8kg, the little boy was healthy and the birth proceeded naturally without any complications. The family had arrived in camp one month before, meaning they had fled Myanmar when she was eight-months pregnant.
Amina’s baby

Click here to learn more about HOPE Foundation’s work and to see more photos from Josh.

Topics: Childbirth, Maternal Health, Pregnancy, Refugees