Why are Rohingya people not using contraceptives?

Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar, BangladeshFile photo

It is alarming to know for Bangladeshi people that about 30 thousand Rohingya children are born here every year. Now the number of Rohingya people in Bangladesh is over 1.2 million (12 lac). Currently, 860,000 Rohingya live in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar and Bhasan Char, Hatia, over half of whom are children.

Five years after they fled from their homeland Rakhine state in Myanmar, there is no actual development for repatriation. Dhaka thinks, repatriation is the only solution to the Rohingya crisis and international communities like United Nations, the US, EU, China, Russia, Japan, and India must mount pressure on the Tatmadaw (the armed forces of Myanmar) authorities to resolve the crisis. But, it is very unfortunate for Bangladesh’s side that they are doing nothing, only providing humanitarian aid. As a result, Myanmar remains uninterested to take back the Rohingya to their homeland. Our foreign minister said, not a single Rohingya had yet returned to Myanmar because of the country’s `non-committal attitude’.

The Burmese government, with the help of extremist Buddhist monks, was responsible for ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Rohingya.

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. About 170 million people lived here amid enormous problems. Cropland is decreasing for the beefed-up population. And we have food shortage in the country. The current situation is ringing the alarm bells to be cautious for the future. So Rohingya people and their colossal complications are a pressure on Bangladesh’s small shoulders. Rohingya annihilates our local people’s peace and confidence, as local resources and livelihoods are already strained. How Bangladesh can tackle all these odds, is a big question.

The situation in the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar is worsening day by day. Drug-related businesses are expanding, leading to anarchy in the camps. Crime, rape, abduction, extortion, and killing also are regular news in the camps. In addition, ARSA, formerly known as Al-Yaaqin, the Rohingya insurgent group in Myanmar, has a strong presence there and they are patronised by some opportunist groups. Mohibullah, a very popular leader among the Rohingya, was killed the last September in Cox’s Bazar. Police arrested some ARSA members who are against repatriation and Mohibullah was always vocal about that. It is said, ARSA is mainly responsible for today’s Rohingya situation. These groups attack some Myanmar police posts in northern Rakhine state, which followed the mass exodus that began in August 2017. Reports suggest that ARSA is running the drug and arms business with the support of their patrons in Rohingya camps.

Views such as “women are born to bear children..”, “a child is a gift of Allah,” and “trying to limit the number of children is a sin,” are common among the Rohingya community

Now the three APBN teams are working there, but the law and order situation has been deteriorating alarmingly. Border patrols should be stepped up to prevent drug smuggling. Surveillance on the Naf River, an international river marking the border of southeastern Bangladesh and western Myanmar, also should be strengthened.


Bangladesh is now in serious danger after sheltering Rohingya people. If repatriation is not possible anymore, if they live here for years, what will be the situation? Local people believe, Rohingyas will never go back to Myanmar.

It is therefore essential to introduce a family planning programme for the Rohingya people, so that no couple can have more than two children.

Rohingyas are known for their ignorance. An article published in the Lancet shows that religious prohibition is one of the vital causes behind low contraception usage among the Rohingya community. Views such as “women are born to bear children..”, “a child is a gift of Allah,” and “trying to limit the number of children is a sin,” are common among the Rohingya community. Also, the fear of side effects of using contraceptives restricts Rohingya couples from resorting to family planning methods. Also, Rohingya women are under social pressure not to use contraceptives.

Though, a recent report published in Prothom Alo, the leading Bangali daily in Bangladesh, shows that the view has changed to some extent among the Rohingya community regarding family planning. Both men and women are using different contraceptives. There is an important role for UN bodies to enact a policy for contraceptive use among Rohingya people. Already, a number of Bangladeshi NGOs are working there. Hopefully, they (the UN) will take it up more seriously.

Kazi Alim-uz-zaman is Deputy News Editor, Prothom Alo. He can be reached via [email protected]