At the beginning of the 1960s, Myanmar was one of the most prosperous nations in southern Asia. Since 1962, however, it has been governed by a military junta, and has in the process become one of the poorest countries in the world. Not surprisingly, very little respect is shown for children’s rights.
Myanmar suffers from structural poverty. 32 % of the population lives below the poverty line. Children from rural areas are especially hard hit.
Lack of equipment and competent personnel has a considerable effect on the health of children, particularly those from poor families. In effect, around 70 % of Myanmar’s children die before the age of 5. Other alarming health indicators include such things as dietary deficiencies (often present from birth) and AIDS (often passed from mother to infant).
The children of Myanmar are regularly the victims of violence: Physical, sexual, psychological, etc. Violence directed at children very often occurs in the context of the armed conflict raging through Myanmar.
Children from poor families are the principal victims of child labour. In effect, many of them are obliged to find work in order to support the needs of their families. Often, they are forced to work in mines, on construction sites, or as domestic help.
In Myanmar, economic difficulties and armed conflict have caused more than 500,000 people to flee their homes. The situation is alarming: More than a third of those displaced are children. Witnesses to atrocities and sometimes victims of violence themselves, these children lead intensely stressful daily lives. Deprived of shelter, of access to an education and the most basic social services, they stand in dire need of protection.
The minimum age for enrolment in the army is 18; nevertheless, children as young as 14 are often kidnapped and forced to fight against ethnic rebels. These children pass their days in training camps where conditions are absolutely awful: violence, filth, lack of food, etc.