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Emergencies: hitting education hard

It’s hurricane, cyclone, flood and storm season around the world. Hurricane Sandy has attracted most of the attention given the impact it’s had in the United States and the Caribbean.

However, it’s the peak season for natural disasters in many other countries too; Southern and South-East Asian countries have been responding to natural disasters on an almost monthly basis.

Whenever disasters strike, all children, no matter where, are vulnerable. But there’s an obvious inequality in a child’s chances of going back to school.

In the US, some children may miss a few days of school. In many other countries, a few days out of school may end up meaning a few months or even a year.

As a recent Brookings Institution blog has said very clearly, we’ll never ensure that all children are able to go to school and learn, without ensuring that education is given proper attention in the wake of natural emergencies.

Education is hit hard

Water is definitely the core theme of the current disasters, but the opposite – drought – is what continues to affect many countries in west and east Africa (with the exception of parts of Mali and Niger, which are now affected by floods).

When disasters strike, education can be hit hard in some of the poorest countries in the world.

This may range from handful of schools that are destroyed in a particularly badly hit area. It may affect many schools forced to close as a preventive measure and, in some cases, it may apply to many schools being used as shelter.

Recovering these schools will take longer – and the longer we wait, the more children are unlikely to return to school.

Where’s the funding?

Despite the hugely detrimental impact of natural disasters on children’s schooling and their chances to learn, the international community still has its head in the sand.

It still drags its heels when it comes to ensuring that humanitarian aid is used to prevent children from dropping out – with all the long-term consequences that this has for themselves and their communities.

This month we have looked at some of the humanitarian Consolidated Appeals Processes (CAP, led by the UN) for the same countries.

The CAPs provide a snapshot of which sectors are better funded – and donor and humanitarian priorities.

Almost 11 months later, education has only received 7% of its overall needs in Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – that’s 1.2 million USD out of the 17.8 million needed – this will only begin to cover the immediate needs to get education programmes up and running.

Schools should be open

Governments and donors must make a commitment to elevate education in emergencies so that it receives equal status in their humanitarian policies.

This is a first step to take in order to ensure they release essential funding that will ensure education interventions are put in place.

As the US recovers from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, children’s education will have only been interrupted for a few days.

We must make sure that children everywhere are entitled to exactly the same feeling of knowing they can go back to school once the tempest has passed.

We’re currently preparing to respond to Hurricane Patricia – find out more about what we’re doing. 

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