Young people in rural areas are key for the sustainable development of Myanmar, where approximately 70 per cent of the population live in rural areas. Young people in Magway are committed to making a change in their Region, aiming in particular to improve the numbers from the Housing and Population Census in regard to Magway's Infant Mortality Rate and Under 5 Mortality Rate. According to census data, Magway has the highest Infant Mortality Rate of all the States and Regions of Myanmar; 89 out of 1,000 children in Magway die before reaching their first birthday. The Under 5 Mortality Rate is also the highest in the country at 108 deaths per 1,000 live births.
UNFPA visited several villages of rural Magway as part of a review of its programme for rural youth. This provided a better understanding of young rural people's needs. Magway is one of the poorest Regions in Myanmar and the future development of the Region depends on the upcoming generation of decision makers; the current youth. The youth in Magway are already taking the lead in collaboration with the YIC and have clear idea about how their work can contribute to the development of the Region through revived youth initiatives. These include, for example, increasing the efficiency of the referral system for pregnant woman, ensuring appropriate prenatal care, safe delivery and antenatal care.
The combination of poverty and conservatism is a challenge for several Youth Information Corners supported by UNFPA in Magway. "The people are very poor and in some areas also culturally very conservative which is a challenge for reaching out to the youth", one of the health staff explains. The youth explained how they try to fundraise to supplement the funds available for the YIC and its outreach activities. However, this has proved limited because the population is simply too poor to generate much funding. Even so, money that was collected was donated for the benefit of poor children in the village rather than spent to cover YIC related costs as the funds raised were insufficient to cover the intended outreach activities.
On a brighter note, one of the young women interviewed explained that youth in this area are interested in health education and becoming health professionals. "The YIC should have its own qualification for working in the public health system", she said, highlighting the strong wish for reviving and extending the YIC's activities to bring about change in Magway.
UNFPA is now integrating this very valuable feedback from the youth in Magway and supports their commitment in its new strategy for rural youth to be implemented from 2016 onwards.