New report calls for improved humanitarian access to estimated 2.2 million children affected by violence, and end to child rights violations
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GENEVA/NEW YORK/SYDNEY, 23 May 2017
– Unresolved conflict, poverty and under-development are preventing children in more remote parts of Myanmar from reaping the benefits of the reform and reconciliation efforts being undertaken by the Government, says the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.
In a Child Alert issued today*, UNICEF says that social and economic measures undertaken by the Government since 2010 are beginning to strengthen the systems that boost children’s health, education and protection.
A draft child law, and increased public funding for immunization programs and education have demonstrated a stronger commitment to furthering children’s rights in the country, the agency says.
However, UNICEF points out that in spite of this progress, life for many children in Myanmar remains a struggle: up to 150 children under the age of 5 die each day, while nearly 30 per cent suffer from moderate or severe malnutrition. More than half of all children live below the poverty line.
“Myanmar faces a real challenge in ensuring that children everywhere – and not just in urban areas – gain from the country’s rapid development,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth.
“There is a risk that many children and their families are excluded. This is especially the case for poorer children living in remote areas or trapped in situations of tension and conflict.”
International attention has largely focused on Rakhine State, where 120,000 internally displaced people – including many ethnic Rohingyas -- live in camps as a result of inter-communal conflict that erupted in 2012. Violence surged again last year following attacks on border guard posts.
Less reported is the situation in remote Kachin, Shan and Kayin States and other border areas, where recurrent clashes between the Myanmar military and Ethnic Armed Organisations continue to drive families from their homes. Civilians find themselves at risk from poverty, statelessness, and trafficking, while having only limited access to essential health and education services.
The report appeals for improved humanitarian access to an estimated 2.2 million children affected by violence, and for an end to rights violations including the use of children as soldiers.
In troubled Rakhine State, UNICEF says Rohingya and other minority children and their families need protection and help. It endorses recommendations by the Advisory Commission headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for a comprehensive birth registration campaign and other investments in health and education services that are open to all children.
UNICEF Australia is calling on the Australian Federal Government to consider positive measures for cooperation with Myanmar to ensure that the best interests of children and their families are prioritised.
“UNICEF Australia encourages the Australian Government to increase its humanitarian assistance to Myanmar to support those displaced by conflict and help them rebuild their lives in safety and with dignity.”
“We further encourage the Australian Government to continue exploring options for a common regional protection framework, to coordinate predictable responses and pathways for asylum seeker and refugee children,” said Oliver White, Senior Policy Advisor, UNICEF Australia.
The report comes ahead of the convening of a second national Peace Conference in Myanmar on May 24 which UNICEF says is an opportunity to commit to stronger protection of children from conflict.
Investing some of the financial dividends earned from Myanmar’s recent economic growth in services that will benefit children and youth, the report says, can help steer the country towards a more prosperous and stable future.
Notes for editors:
* Child Alert: Lives on Hold: Making sure no child is left behind in Myanmar is available for download, along with multi-media assets, here: http://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AMZIFDKGAU
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