New funding for education in emergencies

Education is critical for all children, but for millions of children displaced by disaster and crisis, the right to education is an unfulfilled promise.

December 19, 2012 by Joseph Nhan-O'Reilly, International Parliamentary Network for Education
7 minutes read
Credit: GPE/David K. Bridges

Education is critical for all children, but it’s especially urgent for the tens of millions of children affected by emergencies, be they man-made or natural disasters. Yet, for millions of children affected by disaster and crisis, the right to education remains an unfulfilled promise. But two recent donor developments point to a potential increase in funding for education of children caught up in emergencies.

Education can’t wait

Historically, education was seen as part of longer-term development work rather than a necessary intervention in emergency response; humanitarian relief typically involved the provision of food, shelter, water and sanitation and healthcare. However, with the average conflict lasting ten years and families remaining in refugee or internally displaced person (IDP) camps for an average of 17 years, it’s clear that education cannot wait for more stable times and that the failure to prioritize education in humanitarian response renders entire generations uneducated, disadvantaged, and unprepared to contribute to their society’s recovery. See also: Infographic: Education Cannot Wait

A growing body of evidence on education’s life-saving and life-sustaining role has resulted in a change in those beliefs, which has seen education increasingly being included in the planning and provision of humanitarian relief. Education has its own ‘cluster’ just like other areas that are important in an emergency, like water and healthcare. The cluster brings together organizations working in that area to co-ordinate their response to the emergency. And Save the Children, for whom I work, co-convenes the global education in emergencies cluster with UNICEF.

Funding still inadequate

Despite some of these changes, education still receives the smallest share of humanitarian funding. In most crisis situations around the world this leaves the vast majority of children caught up in emergencies with absolutely no hope of an education. We were delighted when in its new Strategic Plan, the Global Partnership for Education made increasing support for education in conflict affected and fragile states a priority. Identifying this as a priority wouldn’t in itself do anything to improve funding flows to communities hit by humanitarian disasters. Global Partnership for Education agrees new funding stream However, last month at the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) board meeting at UNESCO in Paris, the GPE decided to make some of its funds available for educating children affected by emergency situations. For the first time, the world’s only global fund for education will be able to rapidly support interventions for children struggling to continue their education during and immediately after emergencies.

An education for the world’s most disadvantaged children

This is very good news for the Global Partnership for Education which was founded ten years ago to support education in high-performing countries and in recent years has been criticized for not supporting education in humanitarian contexts and fragile states, where almost half the world’s out-of-school children live. But I’m delighted to say that the GPE has been evolving and with this recent decision it has clearly embraced its new vision of helping educate all children, including those who, through no fault of their own, are caught up in emergencies. EU announces Nobel Peace Prize projects to help 23,000 children affected by war and conflicts In a separate development Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission announced that the money from the European Union’s Nobel Peace Prize win, will fund four projects under the EU new Children of Peace initiative.

One of the projects is Save the Children’s education work in Ethiopia’s refugee camps. In making the announcement President Barroso said, “It was obvious for us that the Nobel Peace Prize money should be allocated to the most vulnerable who are often the hardest hit by wars: children. We want all children to enjoy the constant protection of their rights. Each and every girl and boy in the world should have the opportunity to develop their talents.” Even more promisingly, the EU’s Children of Peace Initiative will not be a one-off action. According to the EU, new funding will be made available in the coming years for more projects in support of children in conflict. Other donors must follow both the EU and GPE’s lead As much as both of these moves represent a significant change in the available funding for education in emergencies, the actual funding they will provide represents a small percentage of what’s urgently required to close the education gap in humanitarian contexts.

Last year’s Education For All Global Monitoring Report which focused on education in conflict affected states reported that education accounts for just 2% of humanitarian aid and no sector has a smaller share of humanitarian appeals funded: just 38% of aid requests for education are met, which is around half the average for all sectors. So despite these positive developments we clearly still have a long way to go. Save the Children will be doing everything we can to ensure that both decisions are the dominoes whose fall will lead to other donors recognizing the importance of funding education during emergency situations, alongside other life-saving and life-sustaining activities. 


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