Education in Emergencies: Why Now is the Time to Act

I've had a lot of conversations lately about the Humanitarian Aid Architecture. Don't stop reading! I know it's a wonky abstract phrase that only resonates with small percentage of people. If it helps, I know a lot of those people and they are fabulous.

But what are we actually talking about here? Humanitarian aid may have become sort of an abstract concept, but I would guess most people think it's a good thing and they realize it saves lives and stops suffering.

Less abstract are the people who do humanitarian work. People who respond to the worst environmental and human disasters we face and create. This work is hard, increasingly dangerous and extremely important. And humanitarian workers do this work very simply because it has to get done. They do it to save lives in spite of the risks they face.

Humanitarian workers risk their own safety and their lives to help people they have never met regain some of what is possible. When it works, it might be the best humanity is capable of.

Yet, there is a HUGE piece missing in making it possible for these women and men to save as many lives and support the rebuilding of as many families and communities as possible.

That missing piece is education. A new report from UNESCO shows how "inefficient humanitarian and development aid systems" are excluding millions of children in conflict from an education.

More than 50 percent of children who are out of school live in conflict and emergency settings, yet last year, only 1 percent of overall humanitarian aid went to support education in these settings -- only 2 percent of humanitarian appeals. And in some countries -- Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gambia and Nigeria -- despite requests for education for out-of-school children living in emergency situations no funding whatsoever was allocated.

I've made the case before for education in emergencies in Syria, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and Nepal but what's true in those places is true everywhere. As a new policy brief on the consequences of not investing in education in emergencies from A World at School articulates, 'Not prioritizing a return to education can be the difference between life and death. With each child, with each successive year of education lost, the human, social and economic costs rise exponentially -- permanently leaving children, families and communities in a desperate fight for survival. This struggle puts children and adolescents at risk for recruitment as child soldiers or labourers, early and forced marriages and other forms of sexual exploitation and trafficking.'

This is not the future for these children and families that humanitarian workers are risking their lives for and it is not the best humanity is capable of. This is why now is a critical time for us to commit to doing better.

At least 33 of the world's leading charities and campaign organisations have already signed on to a call to action aimed at government leaders attending the Oslo Education Summit next Tuesday July 7. Together we are calling on world leaders to publicly announce their support for a global humanitarian fund and platform for education in emergencies.

Let's hope world leaders step up and that July 7 is a landmark day in the future of millions of children and families.

It's not to late to join the call to action or to join more than 6 million people and sign the petition to get all children everywhere into school.