May 16, 2017

Education is key to everything, says new chief of UN humanitarian aid

Young children face many dangers while out of education such as child labour and early marriage

Photo credit: OCHA / Facebook

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

Sir Mark Lowcock will oversee the work of OCHA - the UN office that organises help during conflicts and other emergencies around the world.

The United Nations has appointed a new leader of the organisation that mobilises humanitarian aid during emergencies.

As head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Sir Mark Lowcock will take on a dual role - Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

He said: ”Working together, we can make the world a great deal better for boys and girls currently deprived of a chance of a decent education‎ - which is the cornerstone of everything else in life."

Education is vital to the millions of children caught up in conflicts around the world - including the current crises in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria.

Mark Lowcock is the new head of OCHA

One in four of the world’s school-age children - nearly 500 million - live in countries affected by ongoing emergency situations, which also include natural disasters and health crises such as Ebola. 

In 2015 alone, 75 million children and youth had their education disrupted, received poor-quality education or dropped out of school altogether.

Without education, young people can be lost to child labour, child marriage, recruitment by armed groups or other life-threatening activities. A child who is out of school for more than a year is unlikely to return. 

Sir Mark has 30 years of experience leading and managing response to humanitarian crises. He has worked in Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

He is currently the Permanent Secretary at the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID.

His appointment was welcomed by Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global education.

Education is vital for children caught up in conflict

Photo credit: OCHA / Facebook

He said: "Mark has proven himself to be totally committed to the cause of  assisting refugees and displaced people. He will make a very successful head of OCHA, meeting all of the challenges it now faces."

Sir Mark will take up his new role at the end of August, succeeding current OCHA chief Stephen O’Brien.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres praised O’Brien for his “excellent work, dedication and commitment to the United Nations and global humanitarian action.”

He will stay in the post for a few more weeks to “conclude a number of initiatives and reforms he was leading at OCHA”, the UN said.

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