Economic progress hasn’t yet reached Myanmar’s rural children

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The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that while progress has been made in terms of economic growth in Myanmar, life is still difficult for children in remote areas.

A report by the United Nations shows that the government’s reforms and efforts at reconciliation and improving the economy still leave around 2.2 million kids in desperate need of humanitarian help. Most of these children are in the remote areas of the particularly conflict-ridden regions of the country.

UNICEF’s Justin Forsyth says: “Myanmar faces a real challenge in ensuring that children everywhere – and not just in urban areas – gain from the country’s rapid development.”

He goes on to say that there is evidence to show that lots of families with children have been excluded from improvements. This particularly refers to poor children in the war ridden areas. According to UNICEF’s ‘Child Alert’ report unresolved conflict, under development and poverty are the main reasons for this crisis.

More investment needed

Findings from the report show that one way to help guide Myanmar towards a more stable future lies in investing some of the profits from the country’s economic growth. The report also shows that economic and social decisions made by the government since 2010 are already starting to strengthen the infrastructure and systems that boost protection, education and health for children.

These measures include a draft child law and increased spending from public monies on immunisation and education programmes. UNICEF say that all of this shows a clear commitment to furthering rights for children in Myanmar, but more needs to be done.

Life remains difficult for many

The agency was careful to point out that life is still extremely difficult, and dangerous, for lots of children in Myanmar. Around 150 children under five die every single day, and 30 per cent are moderately or severely malnourished. More than 50 per cent of all children in Myanmar live in poverty.

For example, in the state of Rakhine, 120,000 displaced citizens are still in camps following internal conflict in 2012. Violence is still ongoing sporadically. Similarly, in the remote states of Kayin, Shan and Kachin, there are ongoing battles between the military and Ethnic Armed Organisations, all of which are driving families out of their homes. Families are finding themselves without a home, with restricted (if any) access to education and health services.

Forward thinking

The conclusion of the report reiterates that the investment of the dividends from the economic growth of the country should go into humanitarian aid for the 2.2 million children affected by the violence and problems in the outlying areas of the country.

As the economy continues to grow, UNICEF urge the government to work more in these areas, as well as concentrating on the quality of life of urban children and families.

Htet Tayza

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