Yasmin is 33 days old. Wrapped in a checkered blanket, she writhes around in her makeshift crib, a rice sack attached to the ceiling with rope.
Her mother, Meher, picks her up and starts breastfeeding, crouching on the earthen floor. “She is my baby, she is completely mine, and I love her,” says the delicate looking 25-year old.
“But when I look at her, I also remember the horrors.”
Yasmin was conceived in September 2017 when Meher, a Rohingya Muslim, says she was gang raped by several members of Myanmar’s military.
The Rohingya have long been discriminated against in Myanmar, where they are regarded as illegal immigrants and denied citizenship.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya like Meher have fled the Buddhist-majority country, and now live in the sprawling refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar in southern Bangladesh.
Yasmin is one of a number of babies born in recent weeks to women who say they were raped by soldiers during a violent campaign in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which the UN has said is a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar says its military was there to root out terrorists from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militant group, blamed for coordinated attacks on military posts last August.
“There is no evidence that Myanmar soldiers committed any human rights violations in their response to the ARSA terrorist attacks of 2017,” said Zaw Htay, a spokesman for Myanmar’s presidential office.
“We have recently formed a new independent commission, which will investigate alleged rights abuses in Rakhine state including rape. We will treat any case in accordance with the rule of law.”
Myanmar’s military has previously denied killing, raping or torturing any Rohingya civilians, clearing itself in a widely criticized November 2017 report after an internal investigation.
When Meher started feeling her first contractions, in early June, she knew what was coming. She had already borne two children, now aged five and two. She gave birth alone, on the floor of her crude bamboo shack. “It was painful, but thankfully it only lasted five hours,” she winces.
The camps are a maze of tarp-covered huts clinging to steep hills. A whole ecosystem has emerged to support the estimated one million refugees who live here.
There are popcorn sellers, fishmongers fanning their catch against the flies, barber shops and old men wearing turbans sitting in front of mountains of mangoes and cucumbers. Naked children with distended bellies play in the muddy streams or kick a ball on an improvised football pitch. Every few hours, this frantic life comes to a halt, as the call to prayer resonates across the camp.
At the entrance to the camps, NGOs have set up clinics where the women can come to give birth. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) estimates that, at any one time, there are roughly 30,000 pregnant women in the camps. Every month, 3,000 of them give birth, according to MSF.
No one knows exactly how many of these babies are the result of rape, but a UN Security Council report in March found humanitarians have provided services to more than 2,700 survivors of sexual violence in the camps.
MSF officials say they have seen 443 rape victims between the end of August 2017 and the end of May. The Hope Foundation, another NGO with a network of clinics, treated 102 in the first