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'I am not eating enough, so I can't breastfeed'

  • Published at 12:41 pm September 23rd, 2017
  • Last updated at 01:12 am September 24th, 2017
'I am not eating enough, so I can't breastfeed'
Around 300 Rohingya newborns and young children, along with other refugees in the camps, are at high of infections and diseases. More than 100 Rohingya women have given birth at the no man's land near Myanmar-Bangladesh border, and around 200 of them delivered their babies after crossing over to Bangladesh. After visiting the camps, this correspondent found out that most of the young ones are exposed to water and air borne diseases. In the new makeshift settlements in Balukhali, and Nayapara camp, Rohingya mothers were lined up to visit the medical teams to check their infants who had respiratory lung infections, skin diseases, and diarrhoea. Most of the infants were suffering from malnutrition, and were starving – without ample breast milk – as their mothers were not lactating properly due to insufficient intake of food. Sharing her experience with the Dhaka Tribune, Setara Begum from Nayapara camp said: “My baby is only 10 days old, and the milk I am producing is not enough to meet my son’s hunger. As I am not eating enough food, my baby stays hungry too.” Setara tried several times to feed her son, but she failed. The infant's cues of hunger – incessant crying – could not be satiated. Setara has toiled alone and made a long journey from Myanmar to the border then to the camps. Her baby was born at Shah Parir Dwip in Teknaf near a ferry terminal, right after she arrived. She walked for seven days straight to arrange a shelter for herself and her newly born son. Her son now suffers from a skin disease – rashes have spread all over his tiny form. Many such cases were also observed in the new makeshift settlements. Khadeza Begum in Balukhali makeshift settlement came to visit the health camp as her son had difficulty breathing. Another lactating mother, Shamjida, said her daughter was suffering from diarrhoea. Dr Tareq Hasan of the Balukhali Gonoshasthaya Kendra told the Dhaka Tribune: “There is a very high risk of an outbreak of infectious diseases in the area as the newborns are susceptible to water, vector and air borne diseases.” “The rapid increase in refugee population makes the situation really complicated. The refugees are in need of more shelter, food, water, and sanitation facilities,” he explained the health crisis. 10-month-old Amena’s mother, Shamjida, had diarrhoea just seven days prior to her baby. Dhaka Tribune found Shamjida, standing at the long line of around 100 refugees in front of a health camp in Balukhali makeshift settlements, in search of oral saline for her ailing baby. She explained her predicament: “I feel very weak. We have come a long way, and have been staying at the camp for the past 14 days. I was hungry for days and survived only on water. After coming here, I am only eating biscuits and boiled rice, sometimes I even spend days without any food.” Meanwhile, the doctor on duty at the camp assured those like Shamjida that he would attend to everyone, and would not leave until all the patients are cared for. In a report on health risks, MSF Emergency Coordinator Robert Onus said: “The situation in the camps is so incredibly fragile, especially with regard to shelter, food, water, and sanitation, that one small event could lead to an outbreak that may be the tipping point between a crisis and a catastrophe.” Other health experts have also said the refugees are suffering from the lack of clean water and awareness. The scenario at the camps is so desperate that most of the refugees are using untreated water from the open for their cooking, drinking and washing. Health expert, Prof Dr Kaniz Hasina Sheuli, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Due to the lack of proper sanitation facilities and safe drinking water many diseases may break out in the camps. Many are already given emergency health support.” The neonatal mortality rate in the north-west part of Myanmar's Rakhine state – where the refugees used to live – was recorded 61.1% in the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census by the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, which was published in 2016. This result represents about two-third of the estimated population of the region.