Children of Kachin need protection and have a right to peace, says UNICEF
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YANGON, Myanmar, 22 April 2014 - Recent fighting between the Myanmar National Army and the Kachin Independence Army in the vicinity of Man Win Gyi and Momauk areas (Southern Kachin State) has forced thousands of people, including an estimated 1,000 children, to leave their temporary homes. For many of them, it is the second or third time that they have been forced to take to the road in the past year. Although reports state that the fighting has slowed in the past few days, the situation remains tense.
"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. Landmines left behind or placed intentionally continue to cause harm to vulnerable populations, including children. They also inhibit the delivery of humanitarian assistance. With the renewal of hostilities UNICEF is concerned that new minefields will further increase the dangers to children.
“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 Bainvel.
Along with other UN agencies and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), UNICEF is supporting front-line local NGOs helping threatened children and their families, many of which are also members of the Joint Strategy Team for Humanitarian Response in Kachin and Northern Shan States - a team that is currently assessing the critical needs of children affected by the new violence in Southern Kachin.
Support is being mobilised but improved access to affected populations, and particularly children, is needed.
“We must provide urgent help,” said Bainvel. “But life-saving aid is not enough because children need peace and stability to grow and develop".
"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. 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," Bainvel concluded.
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