Stronger Together in Crises’ – Education Cannot Wait Reaches 3.5 Million Children and Youth In Humanitarian Crises Worldwide

Amid the worst education crisis of our time caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, ECW’s new Results Report provides evidence on progress made in delivering inclusive, equitable quality education in emergencies and protracted crises.

New York/Addis Ababa - Education Cannot Wait launched its ‘Stronger Together in Crises - Annual Results Report 2019’ today, reaffirming itself as the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises. Since the Fund’s inception in 2016, its investments have reached nearly 3.5 million children and youth in many of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

“Education Cannot Wait works to serve the 75 million children and youth - 39 million of whom are girls - whose education has been disrupted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate-change induced disasters and protracted crises,” said the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the ECW High-Level Steering Group. “This new Annual Results Report shows ECW advancing from strength to strength, just three years into its operations. As an innovative fund, Education Cannot Wait is breaking new ground, but more needs to be done. Financing is absolutely essential.” 

The report provides evidence that ECW’s partnership model is spurring progress in delivering inclusive, equitable quality education for children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises. It shows growing political commitment for the emergency education sector and increased prioritization of education in humanitarian appeals: humanitarian funding for education grew five-fold from 2015 to 2019, with more than US$700 million committed in 2019. The share of funding dedicated to the education sector as part of the total sector-specific humanitarian aid globally also continued to rise, reaching 5.1 per cent in 2019.

“In Ethiopia, The ECW programme provides educational opportunities to an estimated 1.4 million displaced, returnee, and refugee children, mostly resulting from conflicts and natural disasters,” said Adele Khodr, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia. “As we work together with the Government and other partners on the re-opening of schools, closed due to COVID-19, ECW’s support enables us to provide protective learning environments and inclusive quality education to girls and boys living in very difficult circumstances.”

ECW COVID19 response grant to Ethiopia supported the strengthening and capacity building of 4 Regional Education Bureaus across the country to develop and deliver distance education learning during school closure, expand the reach and the quality of distance education programmes delivered through radio and television ensuring that children do not lose out on learning. With ECW financial contribution, and in partnership with Save the Children, over 4 million primary school children (1.9 million girls) were reached with distance learning through Television and Radio broadcasts including refugees, IDPs and other most vulnerable groups.

To date, ECW has mobilized $662.3 million, including $252.8 million from both public and private donors in 2019. The Fund substantially increased its operations in 2019, disbursing $130.7 million to 75 grantees to support education in emergencies and protracted crises responses in 29 countries. The report shows that ECW is providing the impetus for quicker education responses in the face of sudden onset crises and is strengthening coherence between humanitarian and development aid interventions. It also captures encouraging trends in terms of strengthening national and local capacities to respond, as well as improving data, evidence and accountability for the sector. 

ECW-financed education in emergency activities reached 2.6 million crisis-affected children and youth in 2019 alone. The Fund’s focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized children and youth is translating into real results: while girls often face additional barriers to access education in crises settings, nearly half of ECW’s beneficiaries (48 per cent) are girls. In all, 30 per cent of the Fund’s beneficiaries are refugees, 15 per cent are internally displaced children and youth, and 55 per cent are other crises-affected children and youth, including those from host communities.

“ECW champions the inherent human right to an education for children and youth left furthest behind in humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Our undivided focus is on the realities on the ground and the more than 75 million children and youth whose education is disrupted by crises. They demand our attention and action. Where there is commitment, progress has been made. The primary enrolment ratio for refugee children improved from 53 per cent to 75 per cent in Uganda in just two years; and, in Afghanistan, where 60 percent in our investments are girls, out-of-school girls now have the opportunity to return to the safety and protection of an education thanks to the government’s community-based education approaches and the partnership with civil society and UN agencies. Yet, to further scale up what works requires significant, urgent funding.”

Indeed, more remains to be done. Funding appeals for education in emergencies and protracted crises remained significantly underfunded in 2019, with only 43.5 per cent of the required funding secured; and, the gap risks widening further with the compounding effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stress it is exercising onto education and aid budgets worldwide.

“To answer the UN Secretary General’s recent call to avoid a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities, ECW and its partners are working to urgently mobilize an additional US$310 million to support the emergency education response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other ongoing crises. Together with in-country resource mobilization, this will allow us to reach close to 9 million children annually,” Sherif said. 

In just the past four months of 2020, ECW’s total First Emergency Response investments span 33 countries and crisis-affected contexts, with a record amount of US$60.1 million rapidly allocated by ECW for vulnerable children and youth, who are now doubly impacted by COVID-19.

Highlights of Key ECW 2019 Results in Ethiopia:

Following an initial investment of US$15 made by ECW in 2018 and implemented through UNICEF, the primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children rose from 62 to 67 per cent.

The initial investment has benefited over 142,840 (54,168 girls) children in Preprimary (12,318), Primary (118,828), Lower (6,904) and upper secondary (4,790) through the construction of 84 new primary school classrooms, 3 new model refugee inclusive secondary schools and further additional 41 secondary school classrooms expansions in 8 host and refugee community schools in Gambella and Benishangul Gumuz Regions

UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Children’s Fund