As UNICEF and partners redouble efforts to deliver emergency assistance to Rakhine State, Myanmar, two children give voice to the situation
By Kaung Myat Than with Zafrin Chowdhury
RAKHINE STATE, Myanmar, 21 November 2012 – Since ethnic tensions erupted in Rakhine State in June, the conflict has displaced an estimated 110,000 people.
The violence has had profound physical and psychological effects on Rakhine’s children. As UNICEF and partners redouble efforts to deliver emergency assistance, two children give voice to the situation.
Children’s own accounts
Mahmud Ali*, 10
I am 10 years old and fourth among my nine siblings...We lived in Sittwe; I was going to third grade in Number 17 Primary School. Since the conflict began in June, we are living in Thet Kay Pyin rural internally displaced persons’ camp.
Before the conflict, my father was fishing boatman, and my mother was a housewife. But my father had to stop working when the crisis began and we moved to the internally displaced persons’ camp.
In June, Ward 2, where we used to live, was set on fire. Even though our house was not burned, in our rush to get away, we were separated, and my youngest sister was burned in the spreading fire.
My father was out at sea. I, too, got separated from my family and hid behind the bushes at the seashore until my mother found me in the evening. We moved back into our house for about a week, and my father came back from the sea.
We had little to eat and had to share the limited amount of rice that was left. My youngest sister died as a result of the burns she suffered in the fire after eight days. We were unable to get her any medical care under the circumstances.
About a week after we returned to our house, Ward 2 was set on fire, once again. This time, our house also burned down. This time, I got injured from a spear in my left thigh…
After seeing so much fire, burning and damage, I now get scared even by seeing cooking fire. I feel like running away at the sight of any fire. I have nightmares of fire and burning and wake up shaking and in sweats…
I am not happy living in the camp. I cannot eat or play or move around freely...
I want to be able to go to the market as before and see people and so many cars. I want to eat as I like. I want to play with my friends and I want to go to school just as I used to. I am praying to Allah every day to grant me my wishes.
Thin Thin Hla, 11
I am 11 years old, the youngest of five siblings. We have been living in the Min Gan urban internally displaced persons’ camp since we had to leave our home in Set Yone Su Ward 1 in Sittwe following the outbreak of the conflict.
My father had to stop his work as a blacksmith. He lost his instruments when our house was burned down.
When the fighting started, our house was set on fire. I was scared to death and could not stop crying. We ran to Par Ta Late village and stayed with our grandparents. I was too scared to sleep at night. After a week, we moved to Adate Htan monastery, and we stayed there until we moved here...
I suffered from fever and diarrhoea and received treatment from the mobile clinic. My family received food from [the World Food Programme], but I don’t like to eat the same food every day. The food is not enough for the whole family…
I have a few friends here in the camp, but we are not able to play – there is no space and nothing to play with. I used to have Muslim friends before this crisis, but I don’t know where they are...I hope they are ok…
If this situation continues, my parents won’t be able to send me to school any more. I may have to find a job to earn some money to assist my family.
I wish I could go back home and stay there. I hope my father can get a job soon so my family can get by. I hope to go back to school.
UNICEF has been concerned about the situation of children in Rakhine for years. Programmes in Rakhine State have focused on health, education, child protection and HIV prevention.
Since the onset of the unrest in June and the escalation in October, UNICEF has worked to overcome access issues and security concerns to deliver emergency assistance including life-saving drugs in emergency health kits, special aids for therapeutic feeding and nutrition support for children.
Partners have distributed family water and hygiene kits, tarpaulins, latrine materials, water purification agents, water filters and large-volume water tanks for the camps on UNICEF’s behalf.
The UNICEF response in Rakhine State is supported by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance of the United States Agency for International Development, UNICEF and Central Emergency Response Fund.
Assessments of longer-term emergency response needs are ongoing.
*Names have been changed to protect children’s identity.