The United Nations Children’s Fund says funding shortfalls are threatening education for millions of children caught up in conflicts or disasters.
The fund has received only $115 million out of the $932 million needed this year for its education programmes in emergency countries.
The money is needed to give 9.2 million children affected by humanitarian crises access to formal and non-formal basic education.
“Without education, children grow up without the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the peace and the development of their countries and economies, aggravating an already desperate situation for millions of children,” said Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF’s latest – and youngest – Goodwill Ambassador, speaking from Hamburg, Germany, where she is representing UNICEF at the G20 Summit.
“For the millions of children growing up in war zones, the threats are even more daunting: Not going to school leaves children vulnerable to early marriage, child labour and recruitment by armed forces.”
Funding gaps for UNICEF education programmes in some of the world’s hot spots vary from 36 per cent in Iraq, to 64 per cent in Syria, 74 per cent in Yemen and 78 per cent in the Central African Republic.
Pursuing educational opportunities has been cited as one of the push factors leading families and children to flee their homes, often at great risk to their lives.
A survey of refugee and migrant children in Italy revealed that 38 per cent of them headed to Europe to gain access to learning opportunities.
A similar survey in Greece showed that one in three parents or caretakers said that seeking education for their children was the main reason they left their countries for Europe.
For children who have experienced the trauma of war and displacement, education can be life-saving.
“When I fled Syria in 2013, I was terrified I would never be able to return to school. But when I arrived in Jordan and realized there was a school in the camp, I was relieved and hopeful,” said Muzoon.
“School gives children like me a lifeline and the chance of a peaceful and positive future.”
As an education activist and Syrian refugee, Muzoon joins forces with UNICEF to speak out on behalf of the millions of children who have been uprooted by conflict and are missing out on school.
“I urge world leaders to invest in the futures of children living in emergencies — and by doing so invest in the future of our world,” Muzoon said.