Emergency £2.7bn warzone education fund launched

BBC News, May 22, 2016

An emergency fund to provide education during conflicts and natural disasters has been launched at the World Humanitarian Summit.

The project has been headed by Gordon Brown, former UK prime minister and UN special envoy for global education.

The aim is to raise $3.85bn (£2.66bn) over the next five years which could support the education of more than 13 million young people.

Mr Brown said it would help restore the sense of hope for refugee families.

Speaking at the summit in Istanbul in Turkey, Mr Brown said: “For the first time, we have a humanitarian fund targeting education.

“A fund that plans – not just for weeks or months – but for years in support of a child’s development. And a fund with a contingency reserve allowing us to act when a crisis hits ensuring no begging bowl has to be circulated.”

Mr Brown said that education was a way to protect young people from exploitation.

“Without school, young children caught up in emergencies are at risk of becoming the youngest labourers in the field, the youngest brides at the altar, the youngest soldiers in the trench and, in some cases, the youngest recruits vulnerable to extremism and radicalisation,” he said.

The emergency fund, called Education Cannot Wait, would be aimed at providing a rapid response to the need for schools for young people caught up in conflict.

The fund, launched with an initial $100m (£69m) in donations, has been backed by Unesco head, Irina Bokova, who said: “Exceptional measures are urgently required to meet the educational needs of millions of children and youth whose future is jeopardised by conflicts, displacement and natural disasters.”

Unesco says education in emergencies has been “grossly underfunded” – and at present only receives 2% of humanitarian aid.

Ms Bokova is calling for a fivefold increase in this allocation for education.

Ahead of the summit, Unesco published figures with the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) showing that only 50% of refugee children are in primary school and 25% of refugee adolescents are in secondary school.

A report warned that there could be even worse problems about which little is known.

Information on refugee education is mostly gathered by agencies working in camps, but many refugees are outside these official camps – living in cities or other informal settlements.

There are also unknown numbers of young people who are displaced within their countries, such as those missing school in Nigeria because of attacks by Boko Haram.

The threat of violence against places of education was highlighted by Unicef, in a report published ahead of the summit.

It warned that there were on average four schools or hospitals attacked or occupied by armed forces every day.

“Attacks against schools and hospitals during conflict are an alarming, and disgraceful, trend. Intentional and direct strikes on these facilities, and on health workers and teachers, can be war crimes,” said Afshan Khan, Unicef’s director of emergency programmes.

It warned of attacks in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Palestinian Authority.

Unicef is calling for international support for a Safe Schools Declaration, with more than 50 countries having signed an agreement for protected status to be given to places of education during war and violent conflict.