$208 million urgently needed to support conflict-affected children in Myanmar
Nearly three years since the military takeover in Myanmar, the country continues to witness an unprecedented escalation of conflict with record number of civilian displacement, biting economic meltdown, struggling health system, and widespread loss of livelihoods. The situation is further aggravated by ever-present risks of natural disasters, including cyclones and monsoon floods, which devasted several communities across southern and western Myanmar in 2023.
In 2024, a record 18.6 million people, nearly a third of the country, will need humanitarian assistance. Over 2 million people are internally displaced, including 1.7 million since the military takeover.
Myanmar’s children—6 million of whom are in need of humanitarian assistance—are bearing the heaviest burden of the ongoing conflict. With the surging displacement and disruption to services, an increasing number of Myanmar’s children are missing out on vital immunization and facing elevated risks of vaccine-preventable diseases in a country that is already grappling with the highest under-5 child mortality rate in Southeast Asia. Globally, Myanmar also ranks among countries with the largest number of children who haven't received any vaccinations (zero dose) since birth, posing a significant threat to their future well-being and adding strain to the already fragile health system.
More than 4 million children are missing out on education and are now exposed to higher risks of grave violations and abuse, including being targeted in attacks, forcibly recruited into fighting, arbitrarily arrested and detained, and forced into early marriages. Prolonged nationwide school closures and disruptions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest and instability triggered by the military takeover, have not only hampered children's education and dreams but also pose a severe risk to the future economic productivity of the nation. An entire generation faces significant challenges in acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge for a productive workforce.
With rising inflation and dwindling household incomes, more Myanmar families than ever - especially the displaced and most vulnerable - are struggling meet their basic needs, including food and clean water, with more children and pregnant and lactating mothers falling into acute malnutrition and facing higher risks of water-borne diseases.
On 12 December, UNICEF launched the 2024 Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC), which seeks to provide life-saving assistance and critical services for some 3.1 million of the most vulnerable people in Myanmar, including 2.1 million children. This plan, requiring $208.3 million, will enable UNICEF to provide over 890,000 children with education services; 392,000 children, adolescents and caregivers with mental health and psychosocial support; 850,000 people with critical WASH support; and 350,000 children and women with primary health care services. UNICEF will also work to deliver measles vaccination to some 800,000 children critical for their survival and well-being.
To deliver the critical support and services to the most vulnerable children and families, including in hard-to-reach areas, UNICEF is strengthening engagement and partnerships with local and community-based actors, working to ensure that no one is left behind. Accountability to affected people is also being strengthened, including through regular engagement with beneficiaries, feedback mechanisms, joint planning and community-led approaches to programming.
UNICEF and its humanitarian partners deliver in an extremely political and constrained environment, making the need for flexible, predictable, sufficient and timely funding for the HAC very critical to delivering hope for millions of Myanmar children, including those living with disabilities or separated from their families, facing an uncertain future. The 2024 HAC is a race against time to avert potentially catastrophic consequences for the most vulnerable children whose survival, safety, dreams, and well-being are hanging in the balance.