Bangladesh eyes sterilization for Rohingya

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PALONGKHALI, Bangladesh: Bangladesh is planning to introduce voluntary sterilization in its overcrowded Rohingya camps, where nearly a million refugees are fighting for space, after efforts to encourage birth control failed.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh since a military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar in August triggered an exodus, straining resources in the impoverished country.

The latest arrivals have joined hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled in earlier waves from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the stateless Muslim minority has endured decades of persecution.

FAMILY PLANNING In this photograph taken on October 24, 2017, Rohingya Muslim refugees speak with medical staff inside a governmentrun family planning center in the Bangladeshi town of Palongkhali.AFP PHOTO

Most live in desperate conditions with limited access to food, sanitation or health facilities and local officials fear a lack of family planning could stretch resources even further.


Pintu Kanti Bhattacharjee, who heads the family planning service in the district of Cox’s Bazar where the camps are based, said there was little awareness of birth control among the Rohingya.

“The whole community has been deliberately left behind,” he told Agence France-Presse, citing a lack of education in Myanmar, where the Rohingya are viewed as illegal immigrants and denied access to many services.

Bhattacharjee said large families were the norm in the camps, where some parents had up to 19 children and many Rohingya men have more than one wife.

District family planning authorities have launched a drive to provide contraception, but say they have so far managed to distribute just 549 packets of condoms among the refugees, who are reluctant to use them.

They have asked the government to approve a plan to launch vasectomies for Rohingya men and tubectomies for women, Bhattacharjee told Agence France-Presse.

But they are likely to face an uphill struggle.

AFP

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