Myanmar: don’t give up – despite all the dangers!

Helper describes daily life full of fear and help that gives hope

By Kyaw Kyaw*, Development Cooperation Manager at World Vision Myanmar
(* Name changed to protect individual)

Before the current crisis, my day started with morning prayer. As a child welfare worker, I felt a sense of satisfaction visiting communities, working with village development committees and volunteers, distributing aid and making sure children felt safe and well cared for.

But then the global pandemic hit. It brought with it many disruptions and obstacles. Many families have faced great hardship due to inflation, food and financial insecurity, and school closures. Just when we were ready to gain a sense of normalcy in the crisis, suddenly came the political upheaval and with it the fighting. The problems caused by COVID have been exacerbated by the political conflict.

The conflict has thrown people’s daily lives into chaos and severely affected their livelihoods. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and many live in camps. Lack of access to medical care and security services has further exacerbated the situation.

When I wake up now, I am flooded with fearful thoughts for the first time in my life. As fighting has increased in recent months, gunfire, news of casualties, and destruction of property have become our reality.

Children and families fleeing violence in MYanmar are getting water filters and thus access to clean water through World Vision

World Vision workers in Myanmar deliver staples like rice and cooking oil to struggling families

Every day, the problems posed by the political and socioeconomic crisis become more complex. The biggest challenge I see is the impact on children. They have not been able to go to school for about two years now. Access to COVID-19 vaccine is limited. Even when IDPs contract COVID-19, they are reluctant to seek treatment at a hospital because they either cannot afford medical treatment or fear being killed or imprisoned and that their property will be set on fire. The panic caused by the mysterious COVID-19 virus was replaced by fear and uncertainty in the face of violence.

Many people no longer dare to stay at home. Fearing for their lives, they flee, leaving their homes behind. I see people moving far away from the conflict to safer areas, hoping to bring their loved ones to safety. For me, the safety of our community members is of paramount importance. Villagers and their families often narrowly escape fighting, airstrikes and landmines and seek safer places, either in quieter provinces or outside the country.

"I find ways to check if they are safe"

The humanitarian principles we learned as aid workers help me and my colleagues navigate difficult situations and focus on the mission at hand. I find ways to contact village development committees, volunteers, and residents of IDP camps to check if they are safe.

Even in the emergency camps, there is a sense of fear among children and their families. With schools closed and no homes, the children have multiple vulnerabilities. They have no safe place to go and feel protected. That their loved ones will be killed, that they will have to flee gunfire and bombs, has become their new reality. The children show signs of trauma and despair. Every time they hear loud noises, it reminds them of fighting and killings.

How people help each other is inspiring

After making sure that the affected population has been relocated to a safe place, my colleagues and I are working with the camp committee members to identify the immediate needs of the displaced people. When IDPs receive relief items such as food, shelter, warm clothes, cash, and educational opportunities for children from us and other partner organizations, it is the most beautiful moment that makes me forget my worries and insecurities.

In Myanmar, many children are currently unable to go to school - so World Vision is helping with education packages

Child labor in Myanmar

I have witnessed how resilient the displaced people are. It is incredibly challenging to stay calm and think for others in intense conflict situations, but I have seen people help others reach a safe place. Their tireless and unwavering commitment to their community is inspiring. As first responders, they work ceaselessly to keep their communities safe by stockpiling food, constantly monitoring news, sharing reliable information with other displaced people, helping each other, and providing food and shelter to families in need. Serving others has become second nature to them.

One day, as I was walking home, I saw two 12-year-old children digging a hole in the ground. I stopped and watched what they were doing. They dug deeper and deeper. When I asked them what they were doing, they said they were trying to build a shelter for their family so they would be protected from air raids and bombs. In such a difficult situation, the children tried to find solutions to keep themselves and their families safe with the limited resources available to them. These children have taught me what resilience looks like.

We must do our part to make children displaced by conflict feel safe. This is why the work of local aid workers and non-governmental organizations to support the oppressed and vulnerable is so important. I believe that when we all work together to help vulnerable children and their families, they become more resilient and are able to recover more strongly from a crisis. That’s why I chose to work for an organization like World Vision, which operates in some of the most dangerous places in the world to help vulnerable children and their families.

My goal is to ensure that even displaced children can thrive and have access to adequate nutrition, medical care, education, physical and mental safety, love, and proper protection. I am proud that my organization, World Vision, is helping the most vulnerable children. But we cannot do this alone. The next generation is counting on us to protect their future. I sincerely pray that peace will be restored and the children can begin the healing process. It takes the commitment of the whole world to end the violence against children in Myanmar.

Background information

In Myanmar the military took power again a year ago. Civilian and armed groups are resisting. Political conflict is exacerbating the effects of the Corona pandemic, which has already deprived many people of jobs and food security. It is estimated that around 14.4 million people will need humanitarian aid this year. World Vision is primarily concerned about the lives and futures of some 5 million children who are either displaced by violence, traumatized, injured or currently in danger of losing their lives.

World Vision has been working in Myanmar for nearly 30 years, implementing projects in 12 of 14 regions. Our work reaches ca. 2 million people, including 475.660 children. Through development work, we primarily support livelihoods, improved food security, and access to health care and education. World Vision also supports the most vulnerable children and their families through emergency assistance, such as food, drinking water, hygiene items and educational materials for children. Aktion Deutschland Hilft finances one of the emergency aid projects. Programs also provide training on child protection and children’s rights, and education on adolescent health and reproductive health.

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