UNICEF has announced a new fund set up in order to help children get back into classrooms after an emergency, saying that one-fourth of the school-aged children in the world, or 462 million, live in countries that have been affected by such crises as wars and other disasters.
Despite almost 75 million children being considered in desperate need of an education or help to stay in school, the UN children’s agency reported just 2% of global humanitarian appeals are typically dedicated solely to education, reports Emma Batha for The Huffington Post.
Expected to be launched at the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul this month, the Education Cannot Wait fund hopes to raise around $4 billion to be used to help 13.6 million children within the first five years and 75 million by 2030.
“Education changes lives in emergencies,” said Josephine Bourne, UNICEF’s education chief, in a statement.
“Going to school keeps children safe from abuses like trafficking and recruitment into armed groups and is a vital investment in children’s futures and in the future of their communities.”
Bourne went on to say that education helps to reduce instances of child labor and child marriage. However, the role of education to protect children in these countries is many times overlooked during crises.
“It is time education is prioritised by the international community as an essential part of basic humanitarian response, alongside water, food and shelter,” Bourne added.
Syria currently has over 6,000 schools that are either out of use, been attacked, occupied by the military, or turned into an emergency shelter. Eastern Ukraine has seen damage to one in every five schools as a result of the conflict. Similar results are seen in Central African Republic, where a quarter of the schools are currently not functioning.
Despite considering education to be a top priority among parents during a crisis, UNICEF said that last year very few children who were described as needing education in humanitarian response plans were actually reached.
Meanwhile, the new fund would offer aid at the first sign of a crisis emerging and provide longer term funding.
According to UNICEF, children are typically out of school during a crisis as a result of being forced to move repeatedly. Statistics show that children who are out of school for at least a year are unlikely to return. In addition, girls are found to be 2.5 times more likely to drop out than boys.
“Education can be a driver of stability, reconciliation and peacebuilding, and a buffer against future social and economic shocks,” the report said.
“If education is not used as a lever to break the cycle, then crises will continue to be repeated.”
UNICEF is currently seeking contributions to the fund from new donor countries, the commercial sector, foundations, philanthropists, and faith-based groups in addition to traditional donors.
The fund is expected to be launched by UNICEF and its partners, which include the UN education envoy, the UN refugee agency and governments.