TOKYO / GENEVA / NEW YORK, 26 July - The Japanese Government has donated $10.8 million for education programmes for displaced children returning to their villages and refugee children returning to Afghanistan, UNICEF announced today, saying the funds were urgently needed to keep up with the large numbers of children seeking to resume learning.
UNICEF has thus far distributed learning materials for more than 2.3 million Afghan children, along with 6,000 tents for temporary classrooms and 10 million textbooks. But UNICEF said that as many as 4 million children are seeking to resume learning, many of them recently returned from neighbouring countries where their families had been refugees.
The donation will ensure that 1.25 million returnee children have access to primary and secondary schooling in Kandahar, Jalalabad, Mazar and neighbouring provinces in Afghanistan. UNICEF is working closely with UNHCR to provide services to returnee children and their families.
"The latest donation by Japan is another example of its formidable commitment to children. Almost one year after September 11, it is extremely gratifying to see that the commitment of major donors to Afghanistan's recovery has not waned," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "Education for all children is the foundation of a peaceful, stable society, and it's a crucial step in the rebuilding process," she said. "We are very grateful to the Government of Japan for its leadership in this area."
The $10.8 million gift brings Japan's total contribution to UNICEF's emergency relief efforts in Afghanistan to nearly $39 million. Previous donations of nearly $28 million supported both the back-to-school campaign and essential health and nutrition activities, including polio eradication.
UNICEF said that internally displaced and returnee children are among the most vulnerable of children in Afghanistan. "They have been uprooted from their homes and have often had to endure the loss of family members. This makes the Japanese gift even more significant; it is aimed at supporting those children who are in the most need of assistance," Bellamy said.
Education is one of UNICEF's key priorities in Afghanistan. On March 23 Afghanistan celebrated the start of the new school year. Exceeding all expectations, an estimated 1.8 million children returned to school that day.
During the leadup to "Back to School," UNICEF supported the Afghan Interim Administration by delivering more than 7,000 tonnes of learning materials, supplying 93 per cent of all schools with the items by opening day. Included were textbooks, blackboards, pencils and notebooks, teaching aids, tents for use as makeshift classrooms, and other teaching and learning materials. To date, 3.9 million primary level textbooks have been distributed by UNICEF. An additional 5.8 million secondary school textbooks are currently being distributed across the country.
UNICEF noted that a national survey of Afghanistan's education situation was nearing completion and that it would provide the most detailed picture yet of both progress and unmet needs. The survey is expected to be ready for release in early September.
"The second school term will begin in September, and we expect the demand for learning materials and support to schools and teachers to continue to grow," Bellamy said. "There is a tremendous amount of work still to do. We hope that donors will join us in our ongoing effort to rebuild Afghanistan through its children."
For further information, please contact:
Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF New York, 212 326-7269