Nearly 60 babies are being born a day in squalid refugee camps in south-eastern Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims sheltered fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar, the UN children's agency said on Thursday.
"Around 60 babies a day are taking their first breath in appalling conditions, away from home, to mothers who have survived displacement, violence, trauma and, at times, rape," the Unicef representative in Bangladesh, Edouard Beigbeder, said in a statement.
More than 16,000 Rohingya babies have been born in the camps located in Cox's Bazar since the influx began following a military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Buddhist-majority Rakhine state nine months ago.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingyas crossed into Bangladesh after the Myanmar army launched their operations, which the United Nations called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."
There were widespread reports of rape against women and girls, Beigbeder said in the statement, adding that it was impossible to know the true number of babies who have been born as a result of sexual violence.
"But it is vital that each and every new and expectant mother and every new-born receive all the help and support they need."
Unicef estimates that only one in five Rohingya children were delivered in health facilities established in the refugee camps.
The agency has mobilised 250 community volunteers to make sure that the women visit the health care facilities before and after giving birth.
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