October 12

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The Life of Qi

This is the second in a mini-series about children affected by conflict. Do read my earlier blog about how the crisis in Yemen is impacting children there.

I Y A I Q T K

I’ve always loved scrabble. I have the board game, a travel version and I have it on my iPad too. 21st century technology is great; it means I can have half a dozen games on the go with random players around the world. I don’t have to persuade someone to be a word geek with me.  For those who play, you’ll know that a ‘Q’ on the rack comes with mixed blessings; it’s a high scoring letter, but usually needs a ‘U’ for a partner. In my games, Q often ends up somewhere on the board as ‘QI‘.   It is a real word, meaning ‘circulating life force’ – and is the basis for much of Chinese philosophy and medicine.

Which brings me to Myanmar, also known as Burma.   Before my time at Save the Children, I had only superficial knowledge of what has been happening there, and how it is impacting innocent children. I’ve gathered some facts and figures, a summary of the situation … and do keep reading to see how my game of scrabble ended and what you can do to help.

Myanmar Stats_KKv2.png

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Since 1948, when Burma gained independence from British colonial rule, the country has faced decades of power struggles and disputes between the majority-minority ethnic groups living within its borders.  In 1989, the military controlled government gave its country a new rack of letters and renamed itself Myanmar to better reflect the ethnicities living there.  Northern Myanmar shares a 1,500 mile border with China, who has played a key role in Myanmar’s internal security and peace process, sheltering refugees during periods of intense fighting and facilitating talks between the ethnic armed forces.

The Rohingya people, a Muslim minority who claim to be descendants of Arab traders, numbered about 1 million in early 2017.  They live predominantly in the coastal Rakhine state. They are one of the most persecuted people in the world; shunned by the government of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. They are labelled illegal immigrants and denied citizenship. In recent years, thousands of Rohingya have been making perilous journeys to escape communal violence and alleged abuses by the security forces.

However in August 2017 there was a dramatic escalation after Rohingya ARSA militants launched attacks on state police posts. The scale of the military response to these attacks was disproportionate and indiscriminate. The people faced unimaginable horrors; deliberate burning and massacre of entire villages, rape and abuse of women and girls, killing of 1000’s including many young children and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and communities. 

This has resulted in a rapidly growing humanitarian crisis. Over the past year, 700,000 have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh and set up makeshift settlements, many located in an area known as Cox’s Bazaar. Families are living in cramped and unhygienic conditions, with lack of basic essentials such as water, food and adequate shelter. There is a risk of major disease outbreak and further devastation when monsoon rains arrive.  

In recent months, it has been reported that the UN are investigating the attacks as potential genocide, and calling on senior military figures to be bought to trial. Meanwhile, aid agencies such as Save the Children are working tirelessly to provide essential aid, ensure children are protected and helping to support recovery of those children affected.

One of the areas of focus for the centenary of Save the Children is to make a stand to ‘end the war on children’; to call for justice and campaign to hold the perpetrators of such crimes against children to account.

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So back to my trivial game …. a good game of scrabble is as much about the luck of the draw as it is about skill – it depends what letters you pull out of the bag, and where you are then able to place them on the board.  Every last child should have the right to survive, learn and be protected, it must not be down to the luck of the draw; where some children have low scoring opportunities and nowhere to be placed in the community.

Faced with my tough rack of letters that seemingly didn’t spell anything; I had a little cheat (I admit it; one of the joys of playing online!) to check if KYAT was a word. Imagine my surprise when the dictionary popped up that yes it is; it’s the currency of Myanmar! A triple word score opportunity gained me a hefty 49 points. Spooky; I felt a greater life force was trying to tell me something … so I promptly made an equivalent donation (in Pounds not Kyats) to help save the children of Myanmar.

Do you want to help make a difference? Please donate now and help get these children on a better scoring square!  https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/how-you-can-help/emergencies/rohingya-crisis

#changecommunities #ivolunteer #PULSE10 #endwaronchildren #doingnothingisnotanoption

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, and not those of Save the Children or GSK.