The Current State of Rohingya Refugees and Reproductive Health

Pregnant mothers and adolescents came together to receive sexual and reproductive health services. © UNFPA Bangledesh

Today, approximately 1.2 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh require humanitarian aid. Most refugees live in crowded, landslide-prone and hygiene-poor conditions where essential reproductive healthcare is limited.  

UNFPA has been in Cox’s Bazar since the beginning of the Rohingya crisis in 2015 and continues to provide emergency care and address harmful practices. Cyclone Bulbul hit Cox’s Bazar in November 2019 leaving schools and agricultural lands badly damaged. In repsonse, UNFPA expanded reproductive health programs, increased its capacity to combat gender-based violence, and instituted more education programs for youth.  

Women and girls comprise over half of the 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar from 2017 to 2018. UNFPA Bangladesh/Naymuzzaman Prince

UNFPA’s Work for Rohingya Refugees 

Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)

UNFPA provides lifesaving services to Rohingya women and girls, including 24/7 safe delivery and newborn care. From supporting government policies on SRHR to deploying professional midwives, UNFPA is working to ensure that quality sexual and reproductive healthcare is available to all women and girls in the camps.  

Every woman has the right to decide if, when, and with whom she has children, even in the most dire of circumstances.  

Over 123,000 women received family planning consultations in 2019. Last year, UNFPA-trained skilled birth attendants helped 13,000 women have a safe birth in the camps. 84,000 pregnant women received emergency birth kits.  

During Bangladesh’s monsoon season, it is notoriously difficult to reach women with timely delivery care. Emergency birth kits provide pregnant women with all the tools they need to have a safe birth.  

UNFPA Bangladesh and partners continue rallying against violence against women.
© UNFPA Bangledesh
Gender-based Violence in Emergencies

In crisis situations, immediate needs like food, water and shelter become the top-most priority, which often means attention to SRHR and gender-based violence (GBV) is overlooked. But when health and security systems fall apart, women and girls become more vulnerable to violence. 
UNFPA estimated 420,000 refugees were at risk of GBV in 2019. Following Cyclone Bulbul, the number of women who joined UNFPA-supported outreach sessions grew by the thousands each month. By December, UNFPA reached a total of 17,234 people through GBV social mobilization.  

Training health personnel is key to ensuring the health and safety of women and girls in the camps. Between 2019 and 2020, UNFPA trained 1,050 staff on various aspects of GBV – including the clinical management of rape. UNFPA also established twenty-three women-friendly safe spaces, giving women and girls a place to build community and providing survivors of GBV access to psychosocial counseling.  

As humanitarian crises become more prolonged, building sustainable programs to address GBV and SRHR is crucial. Ten women-led community centers opened last year, with 2,000 Rohingya and host community women and girls enrolled in programs. 

Women-Led Community Center opening in a Rohingya refugee camp. © UNFPA Bangledesh
Youth and Adolescents

Gender-based violence can only end when whole communities are educated on its implications and harms. UNFPA empowers girls by conducting life skills sessions, which include topics like friendship, sexual health and contraception, building solidarity, and decision-making. Boys receive information on conflict resolution, power and control, gender discrimination, and SRHR.  

As of today, more than 1.2 million people in Cox’s Bazar still need relief.  One quarter of refugees are women and girls of reproductive age, who require access to family planning. An additional 30,000 pregnant women need prenatal and safe birth services. UNFPA has appealed for more than $14.5 million in 2020 to reach 306,998 women and 99,110 men with lifesaving care and support.

-Natalia Sanchez

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