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Policy advocacy and partnerships for children's rights

Unique education in emergencies fund reaches out to the most vulnerable

By Gabrielle Galanek

NEW YORK, USA, 17 September 2010 – Representatives of the Government of the Netherlands, the European Commission and UNICEF met in New York this week to review progress achieved under an innovative programme to improve Education in Emergencies and Post-Crisis Transition.

VIDEO: UNICEF reports on the necessity of education in the midst of emergency. In an emergency, school is nothing less than a lifeline.


Since 2007, the collaboration has worked to ensure that education is a key part of the humanitarian response in emergencies and to restore education systems in post-conflict situations. As part of this initiative, UNICEF – together with partners and donors – has joined to push education to the forefront of the development agenda.

Dramatic scale-up

During the meeting, Corien Sips, an education expert at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reiterated that the partnership has already proven constructive.

© UNICEF/2010/Markisz
Corien Sips of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs discusses the partnership on education in emergencies and post-crisis transition countries with European Commission and UNICEF colleagues.

“This is an inspiring programme that puts countries back on track to good quality education for all,” she said. “We have already seen some promising results that benefit the most vulnerable children. There are also some innovative activities that contribute to peace-building."

While providing education for the most vulnerable children in emergency settings – be they conflicts or natural disasters – is a core part of UNICEF's mandate, this collaboration has allowed for a dramatic scale-up of such programmes. The $201 million programme, which is funded by the Netherlands, represents the largest single earmarked contribution to UNICEF from a government donor.

The European Commission also contributed an additional $5.2 million to the programme.

Sustained support

UNICEF Deputy Director of Programmes Dan Rohrmann pointed out that this support has helped to ensure that education for children was not only restored after crisis, but guaranteed a more sustained period of reconstruction in the long term – a critical step toward helping governments build back stronger education systems.

“Meeting these urgent needs for millions of children has been critical,” said Mr. Rohrmann. “The programme has also been able to reverse prevailing tendencies to suspend support for education and other social services in situations of chronic crises, arrested development and deteriorating contexts.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1800/Pirozzi
Children in Zimbabwe dance at a school in Harare, where an Educational Transition Fund was set up to mediate the effects of a cholera outbreak on the education system.

“This has truly helped put children first and put UNICEF on the cutting edge of educational assistance,” he added.

To date, 38 countries have received funding from the programme in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. The collaboration also supports the work of the Global Education Cluster and the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, providing technical assistance and strengthening education in emergency preparedness and response capacity at country level.

Results on the ground

In an effort to get education back on a normal path as soon as possible in an emergency setting, the collaboration works on the ground to improve access to schools, train teachers, develop learning materials, make learning spaces more child-friendly and better equipped, and aims to increase the capacity of governments to better manage education systems.

In Zimbabwe, for example, the funding was instrumental in the establishment of the Education Transition Fund (ETF), which was designed to mobilize resources and ensure equitable access to quality education. The fund was set up to respond to acute shortages of teaching and learning materials, including textbooks and basic supplies. In 2008 the education system had virtually collapsed due to the worst cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe’s history. But following that lost academic year, the fund was able to bridge the gap back to normalcy in schools.

“Through the support of the Government of the Netherlands and other critical partners, UNICEF and the education cluster were able not only to respond to the cholera outbreak through schools but were also able to begin the revitalization of the entire sector,” said UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe Dr. Peter Salama.

“The ETF has also raised education to the very top of the development agenda in Zimbabwe,” he added.

These and other case studies were presented during the two-day review to illustrate not only the results but the challenges faced working in a variety of emergency and crisis situations.



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