Caribbean volcano: thousands of children need urgent action on education

St Vincent Volcano Evacuee Mother And Child
“We made it out just in time,” said Meddesha Johnson, pictured with one-month old daughter Emily at a shelter after being evacuated from their home on St Vincent (UNICEF / Garraway)

Children's welfare after natural disasters, Education Cannot Wait, Education in emergencies

Theirworld and Education Cannot Wait have called for schooling to be prioritised in relief efforts following eruptions on the island of St Vincent.

The international community must act urgently to ensure that children affected by volcanic eruptions on a tiny Caribbean island do not miss out on education.

About 20,000 people have been evacuated since the La Soufriere volcano began pouring smoke and ash across St Vincent a week ago. Thousands have taken refuge in shelters, many of them in schools.

Officials have warned the eruptions could continue for months and affect the nearby islands of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda.

“Every disaster disrupts life for a young person. As thousands of children and youth are fleeing their homes in the wake of the volcano, not knowing when life will resume normalcy, we must prioritise their education,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.

The global fund for education in emergencies helps millions of children whose schooling is disrupted by conflict, displacement and natural disasters.

Sherif added: “They need a safe environment that provides them with a continued learning, a sense of protection and that mitigates the impact of their trauma.”

Ash has blanketed much of the island – destroying crops, contaminating water, killing animals and blocking roads impassable. So far, no deaths have been reported.

The European Union and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery have given emergency funds which include supporting education. UNICEF is giving humanitarian assistance to nearly 5,000 children in need.

Theirworld President Justin van Fleet said: “When the lives of thousands of people are impacted by a disaster, we must take swift action. 

“The volcano eruption in Caribbean reminds us of our common humanity and the need to provide humanitarian relief in the immediate term – and ensure the most vulnerable, especially children, have the support they need during this trying time. This must include education and mental health support to help cross the bridge from emergency to safe recovery.”

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