Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Leaving no child behind in Myanmar's challenging transition

Myanmar, March 2017- Karin Hulshof visited Myanmar for the first time in her capacity of Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific Region (EAPR). A very symbolic moment as UNICEF is well advanced in developing its first country programme of cooperation (2018-2022) with the new democratically elected Government of Myanmar. 

©UNICEF Myanmar/2017/Khine Zar Mon
The seven-day visit focused on UNICEF’s work in Rakhine State, marked by under-development, and inter-religious conflict between the majority Buddhist and the minority Muslim communities.

In response to the 2012 outbreak of intercommunal violence, UNICEF has expanded its presence and developed a State Plan of Cooperation with the Rakhine State Government to address the long-term deprivations in the State and to improve the quality and coverage of basic social services for all children in Rakhine through the “whole-state approach.”, covering both humanitarian and development activities in health, nutrition, education, WASH and child protection. 

The Regional Director visit’s agenda reflected the different UNICEF interventions in both internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and villages.  

In Rakhine’s Pauktaw township, Karin Hulshof observed key health and nutrition activities including life-saving services through the treatment of severe and moderate acute malnutrition (SAM), prevention of malnutrition through micronutrient supplementation and promotion of Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), immunization, treatment of diarrhoea and pneumonia and support for emergency referrals to access better health care services and health systems strengthening.

Although the majority of UNICEF’s WASH work is focused on responding to needs in IDP camps, it also supports government and communities in Rakhine State to minimize vulnerabilities to climate-related disasters.

©UNICEF Myanmar/2017/Khine Zar Mon
During the visit, the Regional Director had also the opportunity to observe key education activities which include supporting continued service delivery for children in both camps and surrounding villages, teacher training in both communities, as well as Non Formal Primary Education (NFPE) to out of school children in Muslim and Buddhist villages. These visits also served to reinforce UNICEF‘s continued advocacy for inclusive and equity-based education planning in Rakhine State.

Similarly, critical areas of focus for UNICEF in child protection include supporting children in IDP camps to access child protection services, providing case management to children at risk and survivors of violence in and outside of camps and engaging adolescents from both communities in life skills.

“It is extremely important that the government leads the expansion of key services to address the needs of all children in Rakhine, regardless of their ethnic, religious, or legal status”, concluded Karin Hulshof while reaffirming that “UNICEF stands ready to support the State and the Union government to reach every child”.  

A strong message that the Regional Director reiterated during the meetings with the Rakhine Chief Minister and his cabinet, during which she also called for expanded access to all displaced communities, expansion of a social welfare system, birth registration in the whole State, as well as opportunities for trust building and dialogue.    

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