With 99 days to go before Myanmar elections, UNICEF urges candidates make children the clear winner

Child labour in Myanmar. Photo: ILO/Marcel Crozet

Child labour in Myanmar. Photo: ILO/Marcel Crozet

Myanmar, 1 August 2015 – The top representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Myanmar has reminded candidates from more than 80 political parties running in historic elections 99 days from today “to make new commitments for children” to improve spending for health, education and social welfare that remains the lowest in the Southeast Asian region.

“Building a better future for Myanmar’s children is the most strategic and important investment that can be made in Myanmar’s future,” said UNICEF representative Bertrand Bainvel. “In this important election, UNICEF calls on all political parties and all voters to make sure one group – Myanmar’s children – is the clear winner.”

Mr. Bainvel made his appeal in an address earlier this month to representatives of more than 80 political parties at the invitation of the Chairperson of the Union Election Commission.

Despite progress made, millions of children in Myanmar still lack opportunities, with long-term consequences.

UNICEF cited that in recently released 2014 Census data for Myanmar, 4.4 million children aged 5 to 18 years still do not attend school, 10 million children live in poverty, and children are over represented in the poorest sections of the population.

Although Myanmar’s spending on health and education has recently increased, but it is still the lowest in the [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] ASEAN region, and among the lowest globally.

“A 6 per cent increase in the share of the government’s budget – from 9 percent to 15 percent – dedicated to education, health and social welfare, would not only result in better lives and prospects for millions of Myanmar children, it would also be a smart investment in the country’s future and bring Myanmar closer to the ASEAN average,” Mr. Bainvel said.

Mr. Bainvel also urged parties to prioritize the critically important first 1000 days in the life of a child, to achieve universal free and compulsory education by 2020, to expand social welfare and social protection interventions and to build a solid protection system for children.”

“What happens in this election can have a critical positive impact on children’s lives today, and that will benefit the whole country profoundly tomorrow,” he said.

UNICEF identified the following areas that would aid Myanmar’s development: setting up cash transfers for all pregnant women and children up to two years of age in 2016; hiring and deploying 6000 social work case managers across 330 integrated service delivery centres in 2016; registering all children at birth by 2017; immunizing all children using government resources by 2020; reducing under 5 mortality rate by 50 per cent by 2020; halving child malnutrition by 2020; reducing school dropout rates of children under 10 by 70 per cent by 2020; lifting more than 3 million children out of poverty; and eliminating the recruitment and use of children under 18 in the armed forces across the country by 2017.

UNICEF’s current focus of work in Myanmar aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation.