UN will Recruit Interpreters and Midwives to Persuade Rohingya Women to use birth control

Refugees want large families to survive

Human rights groups have complained that a campaign led by United Nations to offer contraception to Rohingya refugees residing in Bangladesh has overlooked the views of the vulnerable community. Nadja Wolfe of World Youth Alliance (WYA) expressed her concern that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) regards Rohingya values to be an obstacle instead of respecting them. The WYA defines itself as a human rights organization promoting human dignity. The advocacy director of WYA said Rohingya women need health care which satisfies their needs and also respect them in the process. The UN program undermines them as a community.

The UNFPA signed an agreement with the Bangladesh Family Planning Directorate on April 17 to provide the Rohingya refugees contraception for shorter terms and longer terms. The two will also offer record keeping and maternal health services. As per the scope of the agreement, the campaign will supply approximately 600 IUDs and 8,600 implants. Refugees will also get other birth control methods like condoms and pills.

The Rohingya are predominantly a Muslim ethnic group who in peaceful times lived in Rakhine State in Burma. Ethnic violence with tacit support from the Myanmar government has pushed approximately 660,000 Rohingyas to neighbor Bangladesh. The United Nations now recognizes the fleeing human mass as refugees. 

The problem with the UN plan is that the prospect of birth control is not welcome among the Rohingyas. They harbor many religious and cultural objections against the practice. Implementing officials deputed by both UNFPA and Bangladeshi authority consists of paramedics, interpreters, volunteers, and midwives. The principal roadblock to these efforts is to make the refugees consent to birth control practices. Kazi Mustafa Sarwar, a Bangladeshi family planning official, noted that the Rohingya women threw away condoms and other related devices. Only a handful of refugees have accepted injectable contraceptives.

The refugees have their logic when asked why they threw away the contraceptives. They said that they prefer to have large families so that they could survive in the camps. A few refugees have no objections to short-term birth control devices. They, however, draw the line when offered longer-term ones. The UN body plans to recruit eight interpreters for counseling services. Their primary job is to convince the Rohingyas to accept contraception. As per World Health Organization (WHO), about 100,000 children will be born to Rohingyas living in Bangladesh before end 2018.


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