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    Nine months after Myanmar assaults, Rohingya camps ready for spate of births

    When hundreds of thousands of Rohingya flooded into south-east Bangladesh last year they told of systematic rape and other sexual violence by Myanmar soldiers and militiamen.
    May will mark nine months since that exodus started. Aid agencies, especially those who work with women and children, have been bracing for the date. Over the next weeks, babies conceived as a result of sexual assaults committed during the crackdown will be born.
    Save the Children says it is expecting the number of babies who are abandoned by their mothers to increase next month in line with the milestone. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which runs hospitals in the sprawling Cox’s Bazar camps, is preparing to counsel affected mothers.
    “They may feel they cannot care or are not equipped to care for their new baby,” says Melissa How, a medical coordinator with the doctors’ group. “Many of them are young women under the age of 18. Additionally, how they will be perceived socially due to stigma is an added stress.”
    Yet they will not be the first children conceived in this way to be born in the camps. About one year ago, Ayesha Akhtar* missed her period. A few weeks earlier, the Rohingya woman says three Burmese soldiers had burst into her home in a village south of Maungdaw town, threatened to shoot her children, then raped her.
    Similar raids had been taking place for months across Rakhine state as part of a Myanmar army crackdown beginning in November 2016.
    Ayesha, a mother of five whose husband died in 2012, says the “dirty act” left her reeling. She tried keeping it from her neighbours, but they quickly guessed.
    “Everyone knew the soldiers commit rape when they raid villages,” she tells the Guardian inside her tarpaulin shelter on a slope in Balukhali, one of the congested refugee camps that has swollen with new arrivals since last August.

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