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Nur Kaida: “Never let your circumstances define you“ – a pregnancy in the biggest refugee camp in the world

How important support and encouragement are and how abandoned you can feel when they are suddenly withdrawn is something Nur Kaida knows all too well. Even before the young Rohingya woman had to flee her home country Myanmar and seek refuge in Bangladesh, her life had not been an easy one. Due to being born with a speech impairment that makes it hard for her to speak and hear properly, her social status in her community had always been low and it was hard for her to find a husband and thus secure her future. But she never gave up and her parents, especially her mother, were always by her side, supporting her. Finally, they managed to arrange a marriage for her as a second wife to a man who promised to give her a good home, stand by her and even give the family some money. Sadly, their relief did not last long, as soon the new husband favored his first wife and only visited Nur Kaida in her house when absolutely necessary.

A first pregnancy amid chaotic living conditions

In 2017 more than 700,000 Rohingya had to flee Myanmar, Nur Kaida and her family among them. After her arrival in Cox’s Bazar in southern Bangladesh, Nur Kaida found out that she was pregnant with her first child. In the chaos of the formation of the refugee camp Kutupalong, that was shortly to become the largest in the world, she had a risky pregnancy living in hazardous conditions without health support, guidance by a midwife, proper sanitation – and still almost without contact to her husband. Luckily at least her parents were still by her side and her mother helped her get through the pregnancy. Nur Kaida gave birth to her first son, Muhammad Kawsar, at a camp hospital in 2018, through a surgical procedure. However, just seven days after the birth, complications arose as an infection developed at the surgery wound. This necessitated an additional ten-day hospital stay. Her husband visited only intermittently, which added to the family's uncertainties.

Life in camp was a great challenge for Nur Kaida, especially with a newborn. The access to food, healthcare and sanitation was particularly bad in the first months of the formation of the camps in Cox’s Bazar, her financial situation was precarious. Almost no women in the camps can move around freely or work for a living, making it hard for them to earn money to support their families.

A visitor brings new hope

When Nur Kaida discovered that she was pregnant again, it came as a shock to her. She did not know how to provide for two children, worried that the child might inherit her disability and was overwhelmed by fear and uncertainty. To cope, she began to reduce her own intake of food. It was fortunate that a Community Health Worker from our partner organization Gonoshasthaya (GK) Kendra visited Nur Kaida's home in this situation. Together, GK and Malteser International run three health centers in the camp and the Community Health Worker encouraged Nur Kaida to visit one of them. There, a dedicated midwife took Nur Kaida's medical history, referred her to the laboratory for a pregnancy confirmation test, and conducted various examinations. The midwife also supplied crucial counseling, prescribed essential medications and recommended Antenatal Care visits at the health center. The midwife’s compassion and the prospect of adequate healthcare during this pregnancy gave Nur Kaida new hope. She went to four antenatal cares and received ongoing support throughout her pregnancy. Eventually she gave birth to a healthy baby boy in Hope hospital – this time, without complications.

“Seek help when needed, and never underestimate your abilities.”

Nur Kaida und her mother are grateful for the support from GK and Malteser International. Little Mohammad Nasar was born by a mother strengthened by help and encouragement. By now, he is two years old, and his mother remains determined to make the best of their life at the refugee camp. A task that becomes exceedingly more difficult since, as one new crisis after the other hits the world, less and less money is made available for the Rohingya crisis and the provision in the camps noticeably suffers from it. To provide for themselves as far as possible, Nur Kaida's family primarily lacks money. Being a refugee and a woman makes it hard for Nur Kaida to find work, and her disability makes it even harder. That is why it is her dream to own a sewing machine. She is a good seamstress and could work from her home and support her family with the sale of self-made clothes. She also wishes to learn skills that empower her and break through the barriers of disability and societal expectations. Nur Kaida draws inspiration from her mother, who has been a pillar of support in her entire life. For now, though, if she were granted one wish, it would be for her husband to return and support her family.

Countless women in Kutupalong and worldwide find themselves in situations like Nur Kaida’s. They are not allowed to work or simply do not have access to jobs for lack of education and/or work opportunities in the camps, and are therefore completely dependent on support by NGOs, their husbands, or other men in their family. To women in similar situations, Nur Kaida would like to say, "Stay strong and never let your circumstances define you. Seek help when needed, and never underestimate your abilities. With determination and support, you can overcome challenges and create a better future for yourself and your children."

With your donation, you can help women in need like Nur Kaida to lead a more self-sustained life and give a glimmer of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

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Nothing works without women. They provide, protect, care, organize, love, laugh, comfort - no matter where in the world, women and mothers are the social backbone of almost all communities. Nevertheless, women worldwide and especially in the Global South are disadvantaged in many areas of life and are particularly affected by social inequality. Conflicts, persecution and the consequences of natural disasters further exacerbate these inequalities.

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