By Azad Majumder
Dhaka, Apr 19 (EFE).- Some 95 new babies are born every day in Rohingya camps of Bangladesh, according to an official count, sparking population boom concerns in the country hosting hundreds of thousands of minority refugees, mainly Muslims, from Myanmar.
Authorities say the growing Rohingya population in the southeast Cox’s Bazar camps has them worried, prompting birth control steps, including distributing free contraceptives and mass awareness programs.
Around 738,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after a campaign of persecution and violence launched by the Myanmar military in August 2017, termed ethnic cleansing and possible genocide by the United Nations.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the birth rate was alarmingly high in the past five years in the refugee camps, with about 35,000 newborns reported every year, averaging more than 95 babies a day.
It also means that the birth rate per 1,000 population in refugee camps housing an estimated one million people is nearly 35, almost double that of the host country Bangladesh, where the birth rate in 2019 was 17.87.
A spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund said 16.5 percent of the refugee population are children under five, which is approximately 150,000.
The home minister said the government would take steps to curb the alarming population growth among the refugees, including awareness programs and roping in religious organizations to fight the challenge.
However, Rohingyas are repulsive to contraception usage, with religious prohibition being one of the main factors.
Rohingya community leader Mohammad Hasim said authorities asked them to motivate the refugees to adopt birth control measures.
“We are telling people about it. They are also slowly realizing the need for birth control,” said Hashem.
Amir Ahmed, 29, another Rohingya community leader, said he was not aware of the family planning concept until recently.
“My wife or I do not use any contraceptives. But we do not plan more children,” the father of five told EFE over the phone.
He said he would encourage other Rohingyas about it.
Pintu Kanti Bhattacharya, deputy director of Family Planning in Cox’s Bazar, said they had made significant progress in the last four years but plenty more was needed to be done.
“Initially they were not aware (of contraceptives). We are motivating them through counseling,” said Bhattacharya.
In areas where the Bangladesh government works, from 111,085 eligible couples, 69,304 or 62.39 percent have received one or other contraceptives.
“This is a big success,” Bhattacharya said, elaborating that they had distributed thousands of condoms and oral pills free of cost to refugees.
He said authorities gave injections, intrauterine devices of three-year tenure, and implant contraceptives of the 10-year-tenure to hundreds of Rohingyas.
He said the government was yet to permit permanent birth control measures like ligation or vasectomy to sterilize Rohingya men and women due to political sensitivity.