Soldiers committed no rapes during a crackdown on the Rohingya in Myanmar, the country's army chief told a UN Security Council delegation on Monday, per AFP. But such denials will only become harder to sustain with the cries of infants taking over refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have sought refuge since August of last year, reports the Guardian. Aid agencies there are preparing for a wave of births as a result of systematic rape by the Myanmar army, described in a UN report as "integral to their strategy [of] humiliating, terrorizing, and collectively punishing the Rohingya community and serving as a calculated tool to force them to flee their homelands and prevent their return," per IRIN. One activist says he knows of 15 women impregnated, though that's likely only a fraction of the true number.
That's because most of the Myanmar sexual assaults—estimates suggest up to two-thirds—go unreported, including for fear of social stigma. One woman who's already given birth to a son tells the Guardian that some refugees disapprove of him, and her own daughters believe he should be turned over to an orphanage. As a result, some rape survivors may hide their pregnancies, give birth in secret, and abandon their babies. Aid groups are prepared to shelter mothers and aid infants left uncared for, but identifying them in time is a challenge. As a rep for Save the Children puts it, "there is a child protection crisis on the doorstep that urgently needs to be addressed." Urgently indeed, as May typically marks the start of the monsoon season. It brings "heavy rains that could douse the ramshackle camps and turn the precariously built homes and footpaths into a disaster zone," per IRIN. (Read more Rohingya stories.)