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Education in emergencies

Wars, conflicts and natural disasters spare no children. In fact, children suffer the most. In countries affected by emergencies, children often lose their homes, family members, friends, safety and routine.

Without access to education, they are at risk of losing their futures.

Over the past half century, the world has seen a rising number of crises stemming from conflict, natural disasters and epidemics. Worse, many crises are prolonged, spanning entire childhoods and persisting for generations. When they disrupt schooling, it not only undermines children’s present well-being, but also puts their futures – and those of their societies – in jeopardy.

The numbers on education in emergencies:

• 1 in 4 of world’s out-of-school children live in crises-affected countries

• In 35 crisis-affected countries, humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises disrupted the education of 75 million children between the ages of 3 and 18.

• Over 17 million school-aged children in those countries are refugees, displaced within or outside their countries, and of these, only half attend primary school, while less than a quarter are in secondary school.

• For children who attend school during emergencies, the quality of education can be low, with an average of 70 pupils per teacher, who are often unqualified.

• Girls in conflict-affected settings are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys

Education is a lifeline for children in crisis

For children in emergencies, education is lifesaving. Schools give children stability and structure to help cope with the trauma they have experienced.  Schools can protect children from the physical dangers around them, including abuse, exploitation and recruitment into armed groups. In many cases, schools also provide children with other lifesaving interventions, such as food, water, sanitation and health.

Parents and children affected by crisis consistently name education as one of their top priorities. Because when children get an education, despite circumstances, whole societies benefit: education can boost economic growth, reduce poverty and inequality. Education also contributes to restoring peace and stability.

Despite the enormous benefits to children, education is often the first service suspended and the last service restored in crisis-affected communities.

Education accounts for less than 2 per cent of total humanitarian aid.

Funding is not the only thing that falls short: There are not enough trained staff to meet children’s educational needs in emergencies, not enough data to get an accurate picture of the situation, and not enough coordination among all the actors involved in humanitarian response.

UNICEF’s work in emergencies

UNICEF works to deliver uninterrupted learning for every child affected by humanitarian crises.

We work to provide learning spaces that are safe, available, suitable for children and equipped with water and sanitation facilities. We work to make sure that while in school, children can learn, despite their circumstances. We provide teachers with training and learning materials. We help children develop skills to deal with disaster as well as reduce risk exposure.  We work with teachers, parents and the community to assure that children get the care and love they need in these circumstances. We work with governments to include disaster risk reduction programmes in their planning.

UNICEF strongly advocates for the right to education and protecting education.

We call for protective learning environments and support governments as they endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration and Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

We carry out much of our work through global and national partnerships. Read about UNICEF’s partnership with the Education Cannot Wait.

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