Funding shortfalls are threatening education for millions of children caught up in conflicts or disasters, UNICEF has said ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg.

Of the $932 million needed this year for its education programmes in emergency countries, UNICEF has so far received recorded voluntary contributions of less than $115 million. The funds are necessary to give 9.2 million children affected by humanitarian crises access to formal and non-formal basic education.

“Without education, children grow up without the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the peace and the development of their countries and economies, aggravating an already desperate situation for millions of children,” said Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF’s latest – and youngest – Goodwill Ambassador, speaking from Hamburg, Germany, where she is representing UNICEF at the G20 Summit. “For the millions of children growing up in war zones, the threats are even more daunting: Not going to school leaves children vulnerable to early marriage, child labour and recruitment by armed forces.”

Funding gaps for UNICEF education programmes in some of the world’s hot spots vary from 36 per cent in Iraq, to 64 per cent in Syria, 74 per cent in Yemen and 78 per cent in the Central African Republic.

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Pursuing educational opportunities has been cited as one of the push factors leading families and children to flee their homes, often at great risk to their lives. A survey of refugee and migrant children in Italy revealed that 38 per cent of them headed to Europe to gain access to learning opportunities. A similar survey in Greece showed that one in three parents or caretakers said that seeking education for their children was the main reason they left their countries for Europe.

For children who have experienced the trauma of war and displacement, education can be life-saving. “When I fled Syria in 2013, I was terrified I would never be able to return to school. But when I arrived in Jordan and realized there was a school in the camp, I was relieved and hopeful,” said Muzoon. “School gives children like me a lifeline and the chance of a peaceful and positive future.”

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As an education activist and Syrian refugee, Muzoon joins forces with UNICEF to speak out on behalf of the millions of children who have been uprooted by conflict and are missing out on school.

“I urge world leaders to invest in the futures of children living in emergencies — and by doing so invest in the future of our world,” Muzoon said.

Information on Ethiopia:

In Ethiopia, the education system remains vulnerable to natural disasters and manmade emergencies despite the significant advancements in expanded access to general education for children and young people. The past two years of successive drought have forced many students to drop-out of school and have lessened the quality of education, with hundreds of schools closing and families, including students and teachers, moving in search of water. At the end of the 2016/17 academic year, over 200 primary schools remain closed.

UNICEF Ethiopia works closely with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education to ensure equity and access for all children to education in the country. Interventions include the planning and coordination of education emergency responses and supporting the Ministry of Education to ensure that assistance to schools across the most drought-affected regions is efficiently targeted. UNICEF also assists regional education bureaus with the provision of primary school teaching and learning materials, water and sanitation services to schools, as well as support to offset the additional costs schools are bearing to stay open during drought. Furthermore, communities hosting displaced families and their children have been provided with temporary learning facilities.

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In 2017, an estimated 2.7 million children require support to continue their education, including nearly 100,000 internally displaced children. In addition, an estimated 369,038 refugee children require further support to enable access to educational facilities.

As of early July, the funding gap for the education sector’s 2017 commitment remains at 57 per cent, with only US$5 million of the required US$11.6 million available to ensure children in emergency-affected areas stay in school.