By Vatican News staff writer
In a statement released on the UNICEF website, Henrietta Fore, Director-General of the Children’s Fund warns of the grave violations that are being perpetrated on children, noting that in the last two months of violence, at least 35 have been killed.
“An 11-year-old boy, an 11-year-old girl, two 13-year-old boys, a 13-year-old girl, three 16-year-old boys and two seventeen-year old boys, all reportedly shot and killed. A one-year-old baby girl gravely injured after being struck in the eye with a rubber bullet. These were the latest child casualties on the bloodiest day in Myanmar since the military takeover on 1 February”.
Two months of violence
Mass protests have been taking place across Myanmar since the military seized control on 1 February.
Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party are among those detained.
Dozens of protesters have been killed.
Violation of children's rights
The UNICEF report notes that in less than two months at least 35 children have been killed, with “countless others seriously injured”. At the same time, almost 1,000 children and young people reported have been arbitrarily detained by security forces across the country. “Millions of children and young people have been directly or indirectly exposed to traumatizing scenes of violence, threatening their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Henrietta Fore stresses that she is “appalled” by the “indiscriminate killing, including of children, taking place in Myanmar and by the failure of security forces to exercise restraint and ensure children’s safety”. Quoting Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres she notes that those responsible for these actions, “which undoubtedly constitute egregious child rights violations”, must be held accountable.
She then goes on to add that on top of the immediate effects of the violence, the long-term consequences could be "catastrophic". Currently, the delivery of critical services to children has ground to a halt, she says.
"Almost 1 million children are without access to key vaccines; almost 5 million are missing out on vitamin A supplementation; nearly 12 million risk losing another year of learning; more than 40,000 children are without treatment for severe acute malnutrition; close to 280,000 vulnerable mothers and children will lose access to cash transfers which are their lifeline and more than a quarter million children will lose access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services".
The duty of the security forces
Henrietta Fore further notes that security forces have a responsibility and must immediately refrain from perpetrating abuses of child rights and ensure the security and safety of children at all times. "Security forces should cease the occupation of education facilities. They must also protect all essential workers – including health workers and teachers – providing vital services for children and families", she says.
Concluding her statement, the UNICEF Executive-Director stresses the Fund's commitment to children in Myanmar, describing it as "unwavering".
Finally, she said, “we must not let down the children of Myanmar at this critical time, when their lives, wellbeing and future are at stake", ensuring, "we will always stand firmly by their side.”