Children dying in Myanmar because of malnutrition: UN

Rai Seng, 13, works for 4,000 kyat (US$3) per day building and repairing roads, along the Myitkyina-Bhamo, Kachin State, Myanmar, Friday 31 March 2017.In 2017, working with the Government of Myanmar, UNICEF will strive to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable internally displaced children. Myanmar is experiencing three protracted humanitarian crises, each with its own set of complex underlying factors. In Rakhine State, inter-communal violence that erupted in 2012 continues to plague 120,000 internally displaced people spread across 40 camps or informal sites, as well as host communities. Eighty per cent of the displaced are women and children. In Kachin State, armed conflict that reignited in 2011 continues to impact communities caught in the crossfire between an ethnic armed group and the Myanmar army. Nearly 87,000 people remain displaced as a result, including 40 per cent who are in areas outside of government control. An additional 11,000 people remain displaced in northern Shan State, where a similar conflict broke out in 2011. Compounding the protracted crises are issues related to religious and/or ethnic discrimination, exploitation, chronic poverty, vulnerability to natural disasters, statelessness, trafficking and humanitarian access. In addition to the humanitarian crises in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, Myanmar is impacted by humanitarian situations in other parts of the country, including natural disasters, health emergencies and small-scale displacements. unicefBangkok: The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF has revealed that as many as 150 children under five are dying each day in Myanmar, while 30 per cent suffer from moderate or severe malnutrition.


In a shock report the agency says war, poverty and under-development in remote parts of Myanmar are preventing children from reaping the benefits of reforms since the country began opening to the world in 2010 after half a century of military rule.

“For an estimated 2.2 million children the promise of peace remains unfulfilled, leaving their hopes for a better future blighted by poverty, lack of opportunity and the ever-present fear of violence,” UNICEF says in the just-released report.

The agency says optimism following the signing of a national ceasefire by ethnic armies in 2015 and the election of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in 2016 have been tempered by slower-than-expected progress on economic reforms.

“Even more worrisome is the escalation of several key conflicts in the country’s more remote border areas,” it says.

The report points to opportunities to save children from conflict through a peace conference involving ethnic groups, scheduled for late May, and a burgeoning economy and improving infrastructure.

UNICEF praises Ms Suu Kyi’s government for increased public funding for immunisation programs and education and a draft child law that indicates a stronger commitment to children’s rights.

But it says “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.”

The agency warns that Rohingya Muslim children in western Rakhine State require urgent assistance, including access to health and education services, and the lifting of religious and other restrictions.

A separate UN report in February accused Myanmar’s security forces of mass murder, rapes and torture against Rohingya in what it said could amount to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

UNICEF says while international focus has been on the treatment of Rohingya, less-reported conflicts in Kachin, Shan and Kayin states are driving families from their homes.

It says in Kachin State, near the border with China, an estimated 67,000 woman and children are living in 142 camps and sites as an ethnic conflict rages. “The situation for children in neighbouring Shan State is equally fragile,” it adds.

The report calls for lifting restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian assistance and an end to the recruitment of children to work in the troubled remote regions.

The report reveals that half of Myanmar’s children reach adulthood with an incomplete education and two out of three children with disabilities do not attend school.

It says nine out of 14 states and regions are contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war, with a new victim of landmines on average every three days. One out of three of those victims is a child.

Coinciding with the report’s release, UNICEF Australia called on the Turnbull government to increase its humanitarian assistance to Myanmar and help settle asylum seeker and refugee children.

The government has pledged $66 million in aid for Myanmar in 2017-18.