December 13, 2017

Humanitarian aid for education should be doubled says UN envoy Gordon Brown

Education is vital for children caught up in humanitarian emergencies

Photo credit: Education Cannot Wait

He said a major increase in funding is needed to help 70 million children trapped in emergencies and subjected to oppression and exploitation.

A dramatic increase in funding is needed to guarantee the future of 70 million children trapped in humanitarian emergencies, the United Nations education envoy warned today.

From Afghanistan to South Sudan, they are being denied a place at school and instead are abandoned to poverty, danger and despair.

Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy on Global Education, said: "New evidence shows that the numbers of children trapped in humanitarian crises have reached an estimated 70 million, are expected to rise further in 2018 and the funding gap will grow.

"This will subject even more children to oppression and exploitation – forced marriage, child labour, and sexual trafficking – in the absence of opportunity and education."

Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, he said the amount of humanitarian aid that goes to education needs to be doubled. That includes more funding for the Global Partnership for Education, which works in developing countries, and the Education Cannot Wait fund for schooling in emergencies.

Brown conceded that education has received more funding than ever in 2017 – over $700 million for humanitarian emergencies and refugees. But as a percentage of the total humanitarian aid it remains low at just 3%. 

He said Education Cannot Wait - set up last year to help education in emergencies, including conflicts and natural disasters - needs to be fully financed.

The fund is working to promote access to quality education for 3.7 million children and support 20,000 teachers in Syria, Yemen, Chad, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Peru, Bangladesh, Madagascar, Nepal, Uganda, Somalia and Ukraine. Multi-year programmes are also being developed in Uganda and Lebanon.

Brown went into detail on the education needs of children in conflicts and other emergencies.

The fund is helping to deliver education to 3.7 million children

Photo credit: Education Cannot Wait

He said that of the 70 million children affected by emergencies, almost 32 million are currently forcibly displaced from their homes - more than 20 million in their own countries and 11 million as refugees. 

The envoy said three countries account for nearly half of all child refugees - Syria (with more than 2.6 million exiled), Afghanistan (over 1.2 million) and South Sudan (over 900,000).

"Children in conflict-affected countries are half as likely to complete lower-secondary school," he said. "To take one example, reports show that over one-third of girls displaced from Syria were married before the age 18 – more than a three-fold increase in recent years."

Brown said there had been 32 countries with emergency appeals this year - and only three had their education needs full funded. The rest got less than half of the money needed, including Afghanistan getting less than 2% of its required funding.

"In the DRC, we reach only 8% of the 760,000 children in need," he said.

Education gives children hope and a sense of normality during and after emergencies

Photo credit: Education Cannot Wait

"In Sudan, the humanitarian appeal for education stands at one in 10 children being supported. And in Somalia, less than half of education needs are met."

Brown also gave details about how the Education Cannot Wait fund is helping to tackle the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh.

The fund's director Yasmine Sherif, who was also at the UN briefing, said: "Without education during the most formative years, everything else will fall apart."

Education Cannot Wait was boosted last week by $19 million from Germany - making it one of the largest donors.

German Development Minister Gerd Müller said: “We must prevent a situation in which generations of children in crisis countries grow up without education, traumatised by violence and without opportunities for a better future. Education creates opportunities and gives people hope – and every child has a right to education.”

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