A seed of hope for Burmese youth without identity (VIDEO)
by Alessandra De Poli

Week after week, refuse and refugees pile up in a landfill in Insein, on the outskirts of Yangon. They include the kids attending the school in Nghet Aw San centre who have a chance to leave behind a life in the streets thanks to an NGO, New Humanity. Over the past two years marked by COVID-19 and civil war, the latter has multiplied its initiatives.

Milan (AsiaNews) – In a country like Myanmar where religious and ethnic affiliations have always been of primary importance, the number of children without identity papers is growing amid the ongoing civil war that broke out after the military carried out a coup d'état in February 2021.

In this bleak situation, the experiences of New Humanity International, an Italian-based NGO, offers a ray of hope.

While the United Nations has been forced to pull out from some areas and is increasingly hard-pressed to provide humanitarian aid, small groups operating locally have managed to provide support to the local population.

New Humanity, which had 25 employees, now has 70, managing to grow in two very difficult years marked by COVID-19 and war.

It did so in places like the Insein landfill (see video), just outside Yangon, where refuse grows for weeks on end, and where people fleeing the ongoing strife seek refuge.

The area’s first “residents” arrived in 2008 after Cyclone Nargis, which devastated large swathes of the country, killing more than 138,000 people and causing damages estimated  at US$ 4 billion.

The government never bothered to address the situation, so entire families became de facto illegal squatters at the landfill. Without papers indicating ownership, the Myanmar military could drive everyone out at any time.

Children born at the site are not registered with the proper authorities. This is partially the result of the collapse of the country’s administrative system from the civil war, but also the consequence of the lack of trust towards the ruling military authorities.

For many, living outside the law in the slum is much better. And it is in here that New Humanity opened a kindergarten, and is working with residents and local authorities.

Still, the future remains uncertain, and the civil war shows no sign of abating, and no one knows when the children will be given an identity.

The situation is also getting out of control at the boys’ school in the Nghet Aw San juvenile centre (Kaw Hmu district). The situation here is very difficult; more than 300 kids from different parts of the country are held at the facility on a variety of charges.

Many of the kids lived on the streets. In just over a year, their number has climbed significantly, and it is unclear what can be done, not only because of the number but also because the kids have been traumatised by war and speak different languages.

Here, New Humanity International opened a school for 150 children, offering basic courses and vocational training to prepare them for life after they complete their sentence.

At the same time, in this difficult year, it launched a vocational training and psychological counselling project in Dala district to prevent juvenile delinquency and help young people face the hardships of life while looking to the future with hope.

Relations between the NGO’s educators and local authorities are good with the latter eager to see everything proceed in the most orderly and positive fashion for the children.

These are but small seeds, planted thanks to hands-on work, walking along with the local community, bringing hope even at this complicated time in the country’s history.