Recent fighting between Government forces and Kachin rebels in Myanmar, and the resulting displacement of thousands of people, has significantly increased the risks to young people, including possible recruitment, limited access to basic services and the threat of landmines, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today.
An estimated 1,000 children are among those forced to leave their temporary homes amid the fighting between the Myanmar National Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in areas of southern Kachin state, UNICEF noted in a news release.
“The fighting and the associated displacement of families has increased the health risks that children face, including by reducing their access to safe, reliable water and sanitation facilities,” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar.
In addition, Kachin and northern Shan are already among the most heavily mined areas in Myanmar, the agency noted. Landmines left behind or placed intentionally continue to cause harm to vulnerable populations, including children, as well as hamper humanitarian aid delivery.
“It is an unfortunate fact that the heightened risk that children face does not disappear even after the fighting stops, because they face a significantly increased risk of falling victim to commonly used landmines and even to possible recruitment into the combatant’s armed forces,” said Mr. Bainvel.
UNICEF is working with other UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations to help threatened children and their families. While support is being mobilised, the agency stressed that improved access to affected populations, particularly children, is needed.
“We must provide urgent help,” said Mr. Bainvel. “But life-saving aid is not enough because children need peace and stability to grow and develop.”
More than 75,000 people have been displaced since fighting between Government forces and Kachin rebels began almost two years ago. For many of those displaced in the latest hostilities, it is the second or third time that they have been uprooted in the past year.
“For the sake of Myanmar’s children, all parties must immediately commit to do all they can to end the violence, to protect children from exposure to land mines and recruitment into armed forces, and to commit to peace,” Mr. Bainvel stressed.
“This is absolutely essential if children in Kachin are to experience the same hope and improved prospects that are now being experienced by so many other children in Myanmar as a result of the recent reforms.”