In the last 15 days, around 100 babies were born in the no man’s land near Bangladesh-Myanmar border without any medical attention, in unsafe and unhygienic conditions.
25-year-old Suraiya Sultan was pregnant when she escaped from the Rakhine state – leaving behind everything when Myanmar military raided her house, burned down her village, looted valuables, and raped hundreds of women.
On 26 August, Suraiya was one of the scores of Rohingyas who were stranded at the no man’s land in Jummun Khali Bariband area when BGB denied them entry into Bangladesh.
It was on that day when she went into labour and started crying in pain. Seeing her in such agony, many other women started to scream.
Suraiya requested the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) for help. Even the sound of incessant rain, that drenched her and other refuge seekers, could not drown her call for help.
Eventually, officers on duty rescued her along with a few other women, and took them on the BGB boat – to protect them from the heavy rain. Within a span of few minutes, Suraiya's contraction increased. The other women on the boat circled her with a sari and helped deliver her baby.
Some BGB officers took notice of her deteriorating health condition, and sent her to the refugee camp in Nayapara, so that she could get medical care for her baby and herself.
On September 9, this correspondent went to Nayapara and found Suraiya and her newborn daughter Ayesha.
The camp officer Mohd Mominul Haq (RHU, RRRC) told the Dhaka Tribune that around 100 newborn babies and their mothers went there for medical care, from August 26 to till now.
He said: “Many of these mothers and babies were in critical condition. We gave our best effort to help them.”
Most of them are suffering from malnutrition and anxiety, he added.
This correspondent also found many other women like Suraiya, with their newborns in their arms and living underneath the open sky, in search of food and water.
Monzur Kabir Ahmed, coordinator of Gonoshasthaya Kendra (GK), told the Dhaka Tribune that when a new mother does not take sufficient food and water, she becomes unable to breastfeed her baby. He said: “It is dangerous for both the mother and her baby's physical and mental health.”
Monzur also said that medical teams from his organisation went to the camp on September 4, and since then they are providing medical assistance to the Rohingya refugees. Till now, five of their teams have been attending to pregnant women, new mothers and newborns.
He added: “From September 4-10, we came across around 89 mothers who have delivered their babies in the no man’s land.”
Most were in dire health condition, he further added.
Angur Nahar Monty, UNFPA's international midwife specialist and expert of reproductive health care services in Bangladesh, said that they were now focusing on sexual reproduction health, and making sure the women get access to sufficient health care – including pregnancy, emergency and gender-based violence, services.