Dhaka, June 3 (UNB) - An estimated 75 percent of Rohingya babies are born in the unsafe and unsanitary bamboo shelters in which Rohingyas live, according to an assessment made by Save the Children.
Home births in such conditions put the lives of both mother and baby at great risk, it said on Monday.
Save the Children warned that hundreds of mothers and babies in the Rohingya camps could die this year of entirely preventable causes, if mothers do not get proper maternal healthcare.
Data from Save the Children’s Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC) from July 2018 to April 2019 shows that of the expected 400 births in a community of some 20,000 people, only 119 babies were safely delivered in Save the Children’s properly-equipped health facility, with the remaining births taking place at home.
Save the Children’s assessment comes as the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and CDC (Center for Disease Control) jointly release new data from the Rohingya camps, which estimates that for every 100,000 live births, 179 mothers die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth – almost two and half times higher than the worldwide target for maternal mortality of under 70 per 100,000 live births.
Worryingly, the UNFPA/CDC study also found that half of all maternal deaths in the camps happen at home.
This means mothers received no emergency care which could have been life-saving.
Save the Children has heard anecdotally that some families do not seek out care during pregnancy complications because they fear sterilisation or infanticide based on their experiences in Myanmar and would rather keep the woman at home at all costs.
Health care providers need to earn the trust of this community so that expectant mothers get the care they need when they need it.
Home births put the lives of both mother and baby at serious risk, as unskilled birth attendants are often unable to identify or handle emergencies in time, and are unaware of pre-existing conditions with the mothers such as high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia and malnutrition, which can lead to complications during delivery.
Also, the poor hygiene practices can lead to severe infections for mothers and newborns.
The maternal mortality rate paints a grim picture of the unhygienic conditions in which many girls and women in the camps deliver their babies.
It also shows that despite the availability of free antenatal, delivery and postnatal care, more work needs to be done to dismantle barriers and encourage expectant mothers and their families to access healthcare.
The circumstances in which mothers give birth in the Rohingya camps must improve rapidly in order to save lives.
Save the Children called for rapid investment to make high-quality health facilities available for expectant mothers and their families and expectant mothers in the camps to have access to proper antenatal, delivery and postnatal care.
It called for further consultation with community leaders to address traditional practices that prevent pregnant women from seeking proper medical care.
Dr Golam Rasul, Senior Health Programme Manager for Save the Children’s Rohingya Response, said pregnant women in the camps face tremendous challenges and barriers to accessing proper maternal and newborn care.
"Besides addressing the traditional practices that keep many Rohingya women in the home during and after the birth, we must invest in more special care for maternal complications and care for small, premature or sick newborn babies. This could help save hundreds of lives as this crisis becomes more protracted."
Recent UN data found that 57 per cent of births in the Rohingya camps take place in the home, though Save the Children’s recent assessment and other surveys in smaller areas in the camps suggest that number is likely to be much higher.
Based on the current pregnancy rate of 2.4 per cent, this means that at least an estimated 12,450 live births will take place in the home in the next 12 months, increasing the risks to both mother and newborn.
Out of the total number of deliveries (119) at Save the Children’s PHCC between July 2018 and May 2019, Save the Children health providers were immediately able to refer 36 women with delivery complications to higher-level health facilities for specialized care.
At the PHCC, skilled providers promptly and adequately managed 24 maternal complications and 4 newborn complications, resulting in zero maternal mortality over this period.
Some 11 percent of the newborns had low birth weight at delivery and they received the necessary stabilization and follow up care to ensure survival.