Lives on hold

Ongoing violence in Myanmar continues to impact children and their communities

Children in Myanmar, especially those in remote border areas, continue to suffer the consequences of protracted crises, inter-communal conflict and discrimination. In Rakhine State, inter-communal violence that erupted in 2012 continues to plague 120,000 internally displaced people (IDP), primarily women and children, spread across 40 camps or informal sites, and host communities.


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A child walks along a path in the Sin Tet Maw IDP camp, located in Rakhine State, one of the poorest and most isolated parts of Myanmar and where almost 30 per cent of children are not enrolled in primary school due to poverty, inadequate investment in schools and teachers, and restrictions on freedom of movement.

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Children at the Baudupha IDP camp, where residents are prevented from venturing beyond camp perimeter fences by security forces. The displaced are also barred from returning to their home communities, which has aroused strong international concern.

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Ma Ya Tu, 11, a Buddhist girl, helps her aunt sell fish at the local market near the Baudupha IDP camp. Raised by her aunt who couldn’t afford to send her to school, Ma Ya Tu made a belated start to her education when a non-formal primary school opened in the area last year.

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“I don’t miss the days when I couldn’t go to school,” said Ma Ya Tu (second right), as she attends a class with other students at the school in Baudupha IDP camp.

Gaps in education affect all communities in Rakhine State and hold back progress.

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UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth (left) visits a school in Baudupha IDP camp.

“Myanmar faces a real challenge in ensuring that children everywhere — and not just in urban areas — gain from the country’s rapid development,” said Forsyth.
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“Maths is my favourite subject,” says Myo Thein, 10, working on his homework at Sin Tet Maw IDP camp, “but when I grow up I want to be a doctor, so I can help people.”

But there’s a problem: there will be no secondary school to transfer to once he finishes primary school next year.

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Myo Thein (left) eats dinner with his family, who are Muslims from the Kamman community, at their shelter at the Tet Maw IDP camp. Myo Thein was only 6 when his family fled their former home. Now aged 10, he is used to life in the camp, and eager to complete his education.

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The Baudupha IDP camp, home to over 6,900 people, consists of a scattering of low wooden huts set on dusty mudflats bordering the Bay of Bengal. Securing an adequate water supply is a challenge: water for drinking and washing is piped into the camp from the neighbouring host community.

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A girl collects water at the Sin Tet Maw IDP camp. During the dry season, from January to May, the daily allocation per household can be as little as 15 litres:

“If the rains are late it will be a problem,” says Tun Min Kyaw, who is in charge of the camp’s water management service.
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Children walk between shelters at the Baudupha IDP camp.

“Families here are facing great hardship,” said UNICEF’s Justin Forsyth, “We are doing our best as UNICEF with Save the Children and many other organisations. But we need to solve some of the root causes of this problem.”

Learn more about UNICEF’s work in Myanmar.