The Child Safe Volunteering Hub (CSV Hub) welcomes partners and stakeholders to the first blog focusing on the tourism sector. As stated on the CSV Hub website – Tourism is a leading global force for positive change – and in this current time we would like to draw on the collective strength and partnerships that have been fostered through this project to:
- Continue to collaborate and work together to safeguard children
- Continue to support existing initiatives and leadership in child safeguarding and hear from you to understand changing needs or priorities
- Share information and opportunities relevant to child safe tourism during this time and into the future
Effects of COVID-19 on Children and Tourism in Myanmar
Child Safe Volunteering (CSV) Hub, a DFAT funded project, promotes responsible tourism and volunteering and prevents practices that are harmful to the safety and wellbeing of children. As the world faces the global pandemic of COVID-19, the CSV Hub reflects on the impacts of COVID-19 on CSV’s Partner countries’ tourism industries and the direct and indirect effects on children and young people.
Children during COVID-19
Children are not exempted from the negative impacts of the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 has negative impacts not only on their physical health but on their emotional and social well-being with school closures, home quarantines, and phycological distress.
With regards to water and sanitation, for children coming from developing countries such as Myanmar, we can see that access is far lower than during normal times. Lack of access to basic medical services and loss of jobs of care givers mean their already weak nutrition status becomes worse. Street children, residing mainly in the larger cities of Yangon and Mandalay are exposed to different forms of exploitation both physical and sexual. It is estimated that there are around 2000 street children in Myanmar and thousands more in Mandalay.
The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, in partnership with UNICEF and Kinnected Myanmar are assessing the conditions and the needs of the street children in these cities during the time of this crisis. Although there has been no COVID cases reported among the street children in Myanmar’s cities, this assessment project aims to work on protection, rehabilitation, and response to COVID specifically for street children.
Widespread job and income loss and economic insecurity among families are likely to increase child labour, sexual exploitation, teenage pregnancy, and child marriage. Stresses on families, particularly those living under quarantines and lockdowns, are increasing the incidence of domestic violence including child abuse. According to Akhaya Women, there has been a spike in domestic violence within the first two weeks of community lockdown, as compared to pre-lockdown.
On the other hand, it has been reported that 91% of schools globally has had to close amidst the pandemic. And Myanmar is one of them. The basic education schools in Myanmar first closed before the summer break began, right after the matriculation exam for the Grade 10s. Universities followed shortly after. Although for some, there is an option of turning to online learning, this is not the case for public schools in Myanmar with limited technology and equipment to provide online teaching. This will mean limited or no education and subsequently falling further behind their peers.
Extending the summer break by a month, the government made an announcement to reopen all private and public schools as well as monastic schools, in July 2020 with COVID-19 preventative measures.
The first case of positive corona virus was officially reported in Myanmar on 23rd March. By the end of May, there are over 200 reported cases, taking into consideration of course the limitations of the testing capacities in the country. Among the sectors affected by COVID-19, tourism is considered one of the hardest hit sectors by the pandemic. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), there will be 20% to 30% drop of international travels around the world, which is an equivalent of US$ 300 – $400 billion dollars decline compared with the figures from 2019. Myanmar is no exception. Both overseas and in-country travel have been highly restricted and international flights yet to resume except for emergency purposes. According to Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MoHT), there is already a 44% drop in tourists’ arrivals between the months of January to April, which is considered a peak tourist season in Myanmar. Lockdown orders, travel restrictions and several directives including prohibiting gatherings of more than five persons means hotels and guest houses have to close down their businesses. This has also resulted in job losses of between 50-70%, and tourism is not expected “to return to normal until 2023”, even if there were ways to control COVID-19 in the country.
Despite the tour operators and agencies preparing to reopen their businesses in coming months, the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), who are the main business operators in tourism industry in Myanmar, have experienced a sharp drop in demand, effectively putting their survival at risk. The government has taken a number of measures to assist with the economic impact through reduction of taxes, delaying by one year the payment of tour license fees as well as 100 billion kyats (US$70 million) in funding to provide loans to businesses that have been hit badly by the pandemic. This is part of the larger and a more comprehensive COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP) launched in late April 2020.
The tour operators and agencies also realise that in order to get back on track, they will need to be innovative to attract tourists. Myanmar Responsible Tourism Institute (MRTI) has been promoting responsible tourism in Myanmar, and since 2019, has worked with CSV Hub to promote Child Safe Tourism. With the global pandemic, there will be a new normal in all areas of life as well as in all sectors of work including in the tourism industry. While responsible tourism has been on the table for a long while, it could possibly be the only go-to option, to make it our new norm in the post COVID era. Whether it be climate friendly tourism, community friendly tourism or child friendly tourism.
Managed by AVI, the Child Safe Volunteering (CSV) Hub promotes responsible and child safe volunteering and tourism in the Asia-Pacific Region. To learn more about the CSV Hub, visit our website.