Myanmar (Burma)

Ten children in Myanmar die every hour. They die of illnesses that, in the 21st century, should never be fatal. We could be stopping many of these deaths — we have a plan to do it. We’ve proven that large-scale assistance can be delivered to children, independently and accountably. It doesn’t cost much. But we need international support.

Myanmar Cyclone

We have been helping those worst-affected by Cyclone Giri, which swept across western Myanmar in October 2010.

Myawady, seven, and her sister Ohn Mar Htwe, 10. They both survived Cyclone Nargis, but lost their home. Their family made a new start with a grant from Save the Children.

  • Despite Myanmar’s natural wealth, a third of its people live on less than 30p a day.
  • 90,000 children under five die every year, primarily from just three diseases we know how to prevent or treat.
  • Our EVERY ONE campaign, launched this year, will save the lives of at least 50,000 children in five years.
  • In 2010 we directly reached nearly three-quarters of a million children and adults.
  • We responded within 24 hours of Cyclone Giri hitting, and helped 135,000 people in all.

The challenges

From the moment a child is born in Myanmar, their life chances are threatened.

Diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria kill 90,000 children a year. In some areas where we work, up to 60% of children are underweight — with up to 12% of them acutely malnourished.

Children here will live shorter lives than anywhere else in Southeast Asia.

Myanmar’s investment in health and education is among the lowest in the world. Yet international donors, concerned with lack of political progress, shy away from giving aid.

Despite the overwhelming need, Myanmar is one of the most under-funded countries on the planet. Children are being penalised by politics.

Parliamentary elections in November 2010 and the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, have ushered in a period of uncertainty.

We hope that the new government will welcome the chance of reforming policies on health, education and the economy, so that children will be better off.

What have we achieved?

There’s no compromise in the way that we work.

Our projects are run with the same standards of independence, impartiality and accountability that we apply in Save the Children programmes in all other countries. And they prove that we can stop Myanmar’s children dying on such a vast scale.

  • We run the country’s biggest programme for children, with the greatest reach and impact. In 2010, we directly helped 277,000 children.  
  • We train community volunteers to assess and treat the three killer diseases. In villages where our volunteers are working, mothers are more likely to use health services, practice better hygiene, and know the danger signs for their children’s health.
  • We provide free healthcare and supply drugs in clinics.
  • In a country with soaring malnutrition rates , we delivered therapeutic care to 80% of children with severe acute malnutrition in Mawlamyainegyun, Laputta and Thegon – parts of the country most  severely damaged by cyclone Nargis.
  • As well as helping children survive to five and beyond, we’re helping them get a good start in life. The Ministry of Education has adopted our child-friendly curriculum in a thousand schools, so fewer children drop out. We’ll also be training 26,000 teachers in child-centred education methods. This is especially important for ethnic minority children, who do not speak Burmese, the language of the classroom.
  • Our response to the devastation of Cyclone Nargis – the worst natural disaster in Myanmar’s history – was the largest in the country. In 18 months we helped 680,000 people, and tightened up our emergency response. Within hours of Cyclone Giri in October 2010, our staff were already providing aid. We now include disaster preparedness in all our work.
  • Thanks to the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria’s grant we’ll provide nearly 20,000 people living with HIV with life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and influence HIV and health policy in favour of children and young people.

What’s urgent now

More than anything, we want to put a stop to the deaths of so many children.  

In 2010 we took our message about child survival to the public — one of the first public campaigns launched by an non-governmental organisation in Myanmar — and the response, especially to our first major drive, ‘donate a baby blanket’, has been enthusiastic.

By 2012 we’ll reduce malnutrition in 300,000 children and in total our child survival programme will reach 1,855,000 children and young people, most of them under five. 

We’re building a local, state and national system of child protection.

In 2010, we helped keep thousands of children safe, educated many thousands more, and worked with township authorities to strengthen their child protection systems.

By 2012, we’ll protect 198,000 children from trafficking, child labour, abuse, forced conscriptions and neglect, with millions more helped when the policy changes for which we are pressing take place.   

You can help

It costs just 30p for a course of antibiotics to treat pneumonia, and only £2 to test and treat malaria.

In five years, we aim to be helping 80% of Myanmar’s children through a nationwide newborn and child survival campaign, saving the lives of at least 50,000 children over the period.

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