|© UNICEF MYANMAR/2012/ Myo Thame|
Children at water point of Set Yone Su IDP camp in Rakhine.Safe water and good sanitation is hard to come by in the congested IDP sites.
By Zafrin Chowdhury
The ethnic conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine State that erupted in June and resurged in October 2012 displaced 115,000 people, and caused loss of lives and livelihoods.
For several months, the displaced people have been living in overcrowded temporary sites without adequate access to basic services.
Children bear the worst brunt of the conflict and displacement. Their access to education, health and nutrition, protective environment, safe water and sanitation are badly affected.
As part of the UN interagency response, UNICEF steps up to the needs of children across ethnic lines.
Child malnutrition was always higher in the Rakhine state, and is worsened by the conflict and displacement. UNICEF is working with the State Health Department to address nutrition issues.
Measuring the arm sizes of children is to estimate the severity of the situation and to provide priority micronutrient, Ready-to-Use Therapeutic and supplementary food to children under 5.
Jaumelarhatu, 22, a mother of two children in Khaung Doke Khal from the Rohingya community said, "My sons have become healthier and stronger after they are given plumpy nuts"
Safe water and good sanitation is hard to come by in the congested IDP sites. Children are particularly at risk for water-borne diseases.
UNICEF and Water and Sanitation sector partners distributed basic hygiene items, built latrines and safe water supply sources and promoted hygiene practices.
Sixty five year old Daw Thinn Mya, a user of the temporary latrines said, “The toilets at the camp are helpful but we need more of them.”
After the hardship and disruption faced by children through the conflict, it is important they go back to school, to learning and routine.
An education assessment is conducted in Rakhine to determine appropriate ways for children to catch up on school lessons they missed for months.
The assessment is to identify realistic time and plan to help children study in a shift system – allowing more children to join the temporary learning spaces and learn literacy and numeracy skills also have time for play and recreation.
In spite of response from the government and development partners, much more assistance is needed.
Health and nutrition, education, hygiene and safety for children are priority for UNICEF “Until a process to establish just and lasting peace in Rakhine is charted, the relevance of education and other basic services, children's ability to protect themselves against violence, abuse, exploitation and preventable illnesses will continue to be undermined,” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar.
UNICEF joins United Nations’ call for a rapid resolution of the conflict and sustained social investment for building lasting peace in the Rakhine State.