Myanmar is the hidden jewel of Asia, cloistered away from the world for almost 50 years. The country was busy rejoining the world stage in a transition from military dictatorship to democracy that started in 2011. When President Thein Sein’s government came to power, Myanmar launched policy reforms that included anti-corruption, currency exchange rate, taxation, and investment laws. However, a military take-over occurred in February 2021, and the country has plunged backwards. Food insecurity, lack of healthcare, unchecked spread of COVID, and skirmishes in many areas across the country are daunting challenges. The numbers of displaced persons has risen dramatically as people flee their homes seeking safety from the conflict. The assistance we provide to children, youth and their families matters even more today than before.
With a population of 54 million people, about one quarter of its people live in poverty. The economy is driven largely by agriculture (rice production), precious gems and minerals, teakwood, rubber, garment production, and natural gas fields.
The large majority of the population consists of subsistence farmers or fishermen. Myanmar is organized into seven mountainous states representing the eight main ethnicities and 130 ethnic groups identified by the Burmese government. Dominated by the presence of the beautiful Ayeyarwaddy River, its path cuts through the center of the country from north to south, emptying in the Andaman Sea.
The primary medium of instruction and the official language is Burmese, but English is spoken by the educated urban upper class and is taught as a secondary language in government schools. The dominant religion is Theravada Buddhism with over 90% of the population adhering to its tenants. Monastic schools are responsible for the education of many children in Myanmar.