Ensuring safe deliveries for pregnant Rohingya refugee women

In Rohingya Refugee Camps - a small gift to new mothers makes a huge difference

12 July 2022

Childbirth is often an uneventful in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. New mothers don't expect much celebration, let alone being showered with gifts.

For Nurjahan, a Rohingya refugee in Cox’s Bazar, the story is different. When she gave birth to her daughter, she was surprised to receive a large box of items essential for a mother and her newborn.

The baby was born at a Primary Healthcare Centre run by Partners in Health and Development with UNICEF support.

“I never received a gift for giving birth to a child,” says the mother of five after opening the mama-baby Kit from UNICEF.

The kit contains a baby carrier, a breastfeeding cloth, sanitary pads, a mosquito net, a warm outfit complete with socks and a cap for the newborn, bath towels and bars of soap.

“I won't have to worry about buying my baby’s first clothes. I could have never bought any of these things in the camp even if I had the money,” says Nurjahan.

The 28-year-old woman came to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh in 2017, fleeing a crackdown on the Rohingya in Myanmar. Nearly one million Rohingya refugees now live in congested camps in the district.

Improving maternal and newborn healthcare in the densely populated camps has been a priority for UNICEF and others. Thanks to the support received from King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KS Relief), the babies born in the health facilities like this one are receiving a kit for themselves and their mothers.

The items in the mama-baby kit were put together to specifically cater to the needs of the new mothers in the camps.

Like Nurjahan, many other mothers in the camps are delighted to receive the gift.

Setara’s eight-month-old son Yasin Arafat still wears the clothes from the mama-baby kit she received. Holding her baby at her home in Camp-8, she says, “the neighbours always ask me where I found such nice clothes and I tell them that these were given to me as a gift from UNICEF.”

She adds that the mosquito net has ensured that both herself and the baby get a good night’s sleep.

mosquito net at a UNICEF primary healthcare centre
A midwife at a UNICEF primary healthcare centre opens a mosquito net from a Mama-baby Kit for new mother Nurjahan and her newborn

The mama-baby kit has made a broader impact in maternal and newborn healthcare, says Dr. Mahmudul Haque, in-charge of the primary healthcare centre.

The initiative has encouraged more women to have their babies delivered by skilled health personnel at UNICEF-supported health facilities, he says, adding that the kit makes it easy for the community health workers to persuade women to seek health services, and to dispel negative rumours about giving birth at healthcare facilities.

At the health care centre, the midwives and nurses counsel the new mothers about the items in a mama-baby kit and explain how to use the products properly.

“Napkins help the mothers maintain proper hygiene; the bar of soap is there for handwashing before the mother eats or breastfeeds the baby; and the mosquito net protects both the baby and the mother from dengue and other vector-borne diseases,” Mahmudul says.