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School enrolment in Darfur doubles despite deteriorating crisis

© UNICEF/HQ04-0240/Parker
Seated on the ground on a piece of tarpaulin, a girl attends class with other displaced children in a makeshift school in Darfur.

DARFUR, Sudan, 3 March 2005 - School enrolment in Darfur has more than doubled in the last six months. Children under 18 account for more than half of the displaced population in Darfur and UNICEF believes that providing education is a key to stabilizing their lives.

Unfortunately, the conflict-affected population has also doubled since August. According to UNICEF, the crisis in Darfur continues to be the world’s most complex emergency, characterized by widespread insecurity, population displacement and dependence on humanitarian aid.

© UNICEF/HQ04-0241/Parker
A woman winnows salvaged grain she has collected off the ground, following a food distribution in the El Meshtel camp in Darfur.

Marauding militia groups have forced communities in Sudan to abandon their villages and flee to urban areas or camps in neighbouring Chad. According to current estimates, over 210,000 refugees remain in Chad, while the displaced population in Darfur has risen to approximately 2.4 million. Among them, 1.4 million are children under the age of 18, while 550,000 have yet to reach five years of age. UNICEF warns that these children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of violence, abuse, hunger, disease and exploitation during the increasing social and economic collapse.

UNICEF believes that education is the key to stabilization and normalcy for children trapped in conflict. “We at UNICEF feel that in an emergency situation education is absolutely vital not just to provide children with learning opportunities but really to try to create a situation of normalcy. To have children come into a centre, they learn, they sing, they dance,” said UNICEF Special Representative for the Darfur Emergency, Keith McKenzie. Schools provide a safe and protective environment for children. At school, they may also receive psychosocial support.

© UNICEF/HQ04-0265/Nesbitt
More than 210,000 refugees remain in Chad while the displaced population in Darfur has risen to approximately 2.4 million.

UNICEF is committed to restoring and establishing education activities for 300,000 conflict-affected primary school children, and 50,000 host community children. As of late February, approximately 167,241 conflict-affected children were enrolled in classes in Darfur, with UNICEF support. “We have about 30 per cent of the primary school age children in school which is a tremendous achievement. However, we need to be reaching the others as well,” added Mr. McKenzie.

UNICEF also warns that there may be a severe food shortage as the drought season is underway. The 2.6 million people who have been displaced by the conflict are in immediate danger of losing the planting season, as they are still living in the camps. “What this means is that these people will be in need of humanitarian assistance for the next 18 months,” explained Mr. McKenzie.




3 March 2005:
UNICEF Special Representative for the Darfur Emergency Keith McKenzie talks about UNICEF’s effort to bring more of Darfur’s children back to school.

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