Displaced children are trapped in remote mountain camps in Myanmar, cut off from education and support.
Kachin State is the northernmost state of Myanmar (also known as Burma) and is bordered by China to the north and east. The Kachin people are an ethnic minority in Myanmar, a highland indigenous people with rich traditions.
Historical tensions between the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Myanmar government have intensified over the last seven years, placing civilians at huge risk.
A 17-year ceasefire was broken by Burmese troops in June 2011, heavy shelling near civilian populations was commonplace and women reported many incidents of systematic rape by the Burmese Army.
Human Rights Watch reported government soldiers blocking needed humanitarian aid, torching villages and firing on innocent civilians and Fortify Rights have extensive evidence of systematic torture being used as an attack on civilians.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimate that around 86,000 people remain displaced in Kachin State, spread across 140 camps. Our partners estimate the numbers on the border to be more in the region of 120,000.
More than 46% of those displaced are living in areas beyond government control where international actors have very limited humanitarian access. Those living in the crowded Internally Displaced People's (IDP) camps are terrified, cut off from vital aid and still subject to regular military attack.
As central government appears determined to crush the last remaining pocket of armed resistance in Myanmar, their recent tactics have been increasingly harsh. With significant natural resources and political influence at stake, the human tragedy is worsening, and largely ignored by the international community.
Thousands of Kachin children are forced to cope in very difficult circumstances with little support for their healthy development. Many children here under the age of 6, have known little else but war.
Daily life offers few chances of respite from the effects of violence and they have no access to early years education, creative play and psychosocial support.
What we are doing to help
Supporting displaced communities to provide education, play and expert care for young children aged 3-6.
Through initial consultations with local groups we found that, although some aid and support was getting through to more accessible areas around Laiza, there were 12 higher altitude camps in the northern part of the state that were still cut off.
As a result, through partnerships with the Kachin Women’s Association and the Kachin Development Group, we are supporting 13 Early Childhood Development Centres for 431 displaced Kachin children in eight of these outlying settlements.
The Centres are safe, colourful spaces which also provide a robust Early Childhood Development curriculum for children aged 3-6 years old .
Teachers are trained from within the camps, with an intensive 45-day training programme and follow up refresher courses. As a result of this, they deliver exceptionally high quality learning environments, despite being cut off from resources.
The Centres are also supported by parents through local committees in each camp. These groups maintain the buildings, create play materials, provide nutrition and learn about parenting and child protection.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children who are displaced are very likely to be disorientated having lost much that is familiar in their everyday surroundings and relationships. Their survival, wellbeing and development are dependent on and built around close relationships.
To promote and re-build this sense of stability, the programme provides a safe place for young children to go to every day, where they meet their friends and interact with safe, reliable and professional adults.
The aim is to allow Kachin children who have known nothing but conflict to simply enjoy being children in a vibrant, caring place for a few hours a day and give them the opportunity to mature into healthy, stable young people.
In the northern camps of Kachin state there is not a single other international organisation offering ongoing support for young children. As the area remains an active war zone, access to these camps is difficult. We remain committed to supporting Kachin communities in helping their children to grow and develop in spite of the daily realities of war.
“The scale of community participation is becoming more. Parents and local management committees have shown their commitments to support the Centres. By participating in making toys and playing materials and planning workshops among themselves, they are making positive steps for the children.”
Bawk Hkun, Kachin Development Group
News and Features
Features and research
- Their World (May 2018) 'Bringing fun and learning to traumatised young children in Myanmar camps'
- The Guardian (15.05.18) ‘Slow genocide’: Myanmar’s invisible war on the Kachin Christian minority
- BBC news (28.04.18): Myanmar violence: Thousands flee fresh fighting in Kachin state
- Amnesty International: "All the civilians suffer" : Conflict, Displacement, and abuse in Northern Myanmar.
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