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Half a million children displaced in Myanmar conflict

Pope calls on Catholics to pray for child victims of war as Myanmar junta targets children
Children attend a class in a temporary shelter at a camp for internally displaced people in Demoso township in Myanmar's Kayah state, Oct. 18, 2021

Children attend a class in a temporary shelter at a camp for internally displaced people in Demoso township in Myanmar's Kayah state, Oct. 18, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Published: November 02, 2022 06:02 AM GMT
Updated: November 02, 2022 06:54 AM GMT

As Pope Francis urges the world to pray for the child victims of war, hundreds of thousands of children in Myanmar have been affected by ongoing conflicts exacerbated by last year’s military coup.

The number of children forced to flee their homes to escape violence in Myanmar has surpassed half a million with a rapid escalation in displacements this year, according to Save the Children.

In a report released on Nov 1, the charity said more than 1.4 million people have been displaced by conflict in Myanmar with 1.1 million forced to flee since the escalation of violence in February 2021. Of the total 407,000 children displaced since then, about 63%, or 257,000, have been displaced in the past nine months.

“Many displaced families in Myanmar are living in makeshift shelters in the jungle and are vulnerable to hunger, illness and face risks to their safety like trafficking and exploitation,” the report said.

"These figures serve as a warning to the world"

It added that children’s lives remain under threat on a daily basis nearly two years after the military ousted the elected civilian government.

In September, 11 children were reportedly killed and another 17 injured in an air strike on a school in Let Yet Kone village, Sagaing region. Last month, two children were killed and one was severely injured in an explosion on the way home from school in Chin state.

“A year after this political crisis and escalation in violence started, 150,000 children were displaced. Not even a year after that, this number is half a million. These figures serve as a warning to the world: while there are many crises the world is grappling with, the children of Myanmar must not be forgotten,” said Olivier Franchi, Save the Children’s Asia program director.

In a video message released on Oct 31, Pope Francis called on Catholics to pray for children who are suffering due to rejection, indigence, poverty and conflict around the world.

“There are still millions of boys and girls who suffer and live in conditions very similar to slavery,” the pope said, stressing that “these children are not numbers but human beings with names and an identity that God has given them.”

He said every marginalized child living without schooling, without a family, without healthcare, is “a cry, a cry that rises up to God and shames the system that we adults have built.”

"Respect human life and the sanctity of places of worship"

Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, recently appealed to global organizations to take swift and decisive action, especially to protect the lives and rights of children.

Myanmar bishops have repeatedly called for the junta to respect human life and the sanctity of places of worship, hospitals and schools in the Southeast Asian nation.

The military regime has brutally attacked and killed scores of children caught in the crossfire of conflict as well as being targeted for violence, according to a UN rights report released in June.

More than 2,400 people, including scores of children, have been killed and over 16,000 people have been detained by the junta since the military coup in February last year, rights groups say.

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