RANGOON — The United Kingdom will maintain its annual aid package to Burma, at about US$100 million, over the next two years.
A quarter of that aid in the 2014-15 fiscal year will be spent on the peace process, including assistance for internally displaced people in conflict areas, according to Gavin McFillivray, head of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) office in Burma. He said the other funds would be targeted for health, education and microcredit loans.
“We want to work for a Myanmar [Burma] in which every child can go to school and have a good education, in which all people have good health care, and in which everybody can get a good job,” he told reporters on Friday, during a visit to an early childhood care and development center supported by the DFID in Irrawaddy Division.
He was accompanied by British Ambassador to Burma Andrew Patrick, who said the United Kingdom had already provided $5 million to the Myanmar Education Consortium, a multi-million dollar program—unveiled last year with the Australian government aid body—that aims to support education for Burma’s poorest children
Through the consortium, the United Kingdom helps support early childhood development centers (ECCD) in five states and divisions around the country.
“So far we have established 86 ECCD centers, trained 2,800 caregivers and provided early childhood care and development for 3,000 children,” Patrick told reporters. “Over the coming year, we intend to expand so that 1,300 children have access to ECCD.”
The early childhood development centers offer care for children between the ages of 3 and 5 who have not yet entered the formal school system. In some cases, parents say the centers have allowed them to improve their livelihoods.
“I can do my job now,” says Nu War Hlaing, whose 4-year-old son attends a center in Hle Kyaw Gone village. “In the past I had to take care of my son myself, and I couldn’t earn money.”
The ambassador also visited a microfinance project in Irrawaddy Division last week. The United Kingdom has supported local microfinance operator Pact to offer basic training on financial management, as well as access to credit and loans, to 78,000 people. Women have received 95 percent of this support.
Khin Htwe Yee, a resident in Kyoe Kyar Chaung village, took a loan of 80,000 kyats ($80) last April so she could earn money by cultivating betel nut and developing a pig farm. “The interest rate is 480 kyats, paid twice a month,” she told The Irrawaddy.
The DFIF doubled its aid package to Burma in the 2013-14 fiscal year, to $100 million, compared to about $50 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year.