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Education in emergencies

Students at Ban Bang Sak school, Phang Nga, Thailand
Students adapt to their tsunami-affected school in Thailand

The Issues

Our region has dealt with more natural disasters than any other region in recent years. This trend will likely worsen as climate change, urbanization and deforestation bring more torrential rains, floods, landslides, droughts and high temperatures – all of which can affect children’s access to education.

  • Floods, landslides and earthquakes kill teachers and students and damage or destroy schools. School materials such as desks and textbooks are lost or rendered useless during natural disasters. Getting children back in school is often not viewed as a priority in reconstruction efforts.
  • Schools are also vulnerable during civil conflicts, which our region is still witnessing. During conflicts, schools may be used as barracks or emergency health centres. Or schools are often targeted in attacks. For instance, in southern Thailand where a low-level separatist insurgency has been dragging on for years, state schools have been burned to the ground because they symbolize the central government.

Earthquake-affected children in Indonesia
© UNICEF/IDSA00008/Estey
Offering earthquake-affected children comfort in Indonesia

UNICEF in Action

During emergencies, UNICEF works quickly to rebuild educational systems because we believe getting children back in school is one of the most important steps in restoring normalcy to a community. Our activities include:

  • Providing organized learning centres where children affected by emergencies can gain a sense of normalcy by regularly attending classes and can find psychosocial support;
  • Supplying ‘school-in-a-box’ kits and sports equipment immediately after emergencies to assist teachers and communities in providing psychosocial support;
  • Rebuilding schools and child care centres by providing funds, construction materials, expertise and educational materials;
  • Providing safe drinking water and adequate water supplies for hygiene;
  • Developing and implementing emergency education training for our country offices; and
  • Introducing disaster preparedness education into classrooms.



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