4 November 2015 – As Myanmar heads for a historic election on 8 November, Unicef and Save the Children are calling on potential future leaders to prioritise children and commit to provide them with a fair start in life. 

The two children’s organisations have been actively engaging more than 80 political parties to urge them to prioritise children in their manifestos. As a result, 37 parties have included children in their campaigns, particularly by highlighting education, health, nutrition, social welfare and protection.  

“In the months leading up to this election, Unicef and Save the Children have been campaigning with children and other child-focused agencies in a call to political parties to commit to improving the lives of children should they get elected,” explains Bertrand Bainvel, Unicef Representative to Myanmar. “We hope that this will help put children at the centre of voters choices and that the elections results will have a clear winner - children”. 

In Myanmar, over 60 percent of children still live in poverty. In addition, one in 14 do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday, and over a third of children aged between five and 18 do not go to school, many having to work to support their families. 

“From our experience on the ground, we know that children are eager to learn and want to break free from the poverty cycle,” said Kelly Stevenson, Country Director for Save the Children. “However, with 70 percent of Myanmar’s families living close to the poverty line, the reality for them is a hungry household, and unaffordable out-of-pocket expenditures for an education and life-saving health services.”

“Around 1.6 million children, or 20 percent of children in Myanmar between ages 10 and 18, are now employed, some exploited with low wages or forced to work under hazardous conditions,” Kelly Stevenson continued. “These vulnerable children are also at risk of recruitment into armed forces and trafficking.”

In order to tackle these challenges for children, Unicef and Save the Children suggest a series of policy changes that can help to dramatically improve the lives of children and their families. These include:

1. Increasing the government budget share for education, health and social welfare from 9 to 15 percent

2. Consolidating and fully implementing recently established frameworks that will benefit children, such as the Social Protection Strategic Plan, the National Education Sector Plan and the finalisation of the draft Child Law

3. Proposing a new compact for children, such as prioritising the first 1,000 days of life and achieving free and compulsory education

4. Setting bold new targets for children, so they have an equal chance at surviving and thriving, such as universal birth registration by 2017, reduce under five mortality rate and malnutrition by 50 percent by 2020, and reduce school drop out after the age of 10 by 70 percent. 

“This election is a time to inspire the future leaders to become champions for children in the new Union Parliament,” said Bertrand Bainvel. “Our mission doesn’t end after the elections. We are committed to keep working with elected candidates, so that they keep their promises to children.” 

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Notes for editors:

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk

Unicef in Myanmar 

Unicef has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, Unicef’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation. For more information about Unicef and its work in Myanmar. Please visit: www.unicef.org/myanmar Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/unicefmyanmar 

Save the Children

Save the Children has worked in Myanmar since 1995, helping children to access essential services such as healthcare and education. Since then, Save the Children has expanded its programmes within the country, supporting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families to access nutritious foods, gainful employment and financial services, community protection, child rights, clean water and sanitation, malaria and TB control and HIV/AIDS treatment. In 2014, Save the Children reached over 1.2 million children.