Today, about 60 million people around the world are internally displaced or living as refugees. Some left their homes to escape violence, some fled famine, catastrophic flooding or other natural disaster. It is the worst humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War. And half of the displaced are children under the age of 18.
Crises that cause civilian populations to abandon their homes are doubly harmful to children, because they disrupt some of the most protective and supportive environments in which children can live and learn. Add to this the fact that too often, humanitarian response has not prioritized ensuring that displaced children can continue their formal education, and we may find that the future of an entire generation of children has been compromised.
“As crises have become longer — families are displaced for 20 years on average — children may spend their entire childhood exiled from their homes without education, a new generation grows up without the basic skills needed to contribute to their community and society,” wrote US Agency for International Development Director of Education Evelyn Rodriguez-Perez in a recent blog post.
Today, around 75 million children between the ages of 3 and 18 in 35 countries are in urgent need of educational support. That is why the U.S. government is launching new initiatives to help youth in conflict areas continue their education. Today, the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with a leading virtual education provider, will begin a new initiative, Coursera for Refugees, to help refugees quickly build career skills and find employment through access to the 1,000+ Coursera courses offered online. U.S. Embassies and Consulates will partner with local nonprofits to facilitate these courses in-person.
UNICEF launched the Education Cannot Wait Fund on May 23, which aims to help children continue their education in emergency situations. The goal is to build sustainable schools that will transition from crisis response to longer term development of education systems. The Fund hopes to elicit multi-year commitments from international donors, both public and private
"There is an urgent need to ensure that kids who are forced into refuge are not denied an education. Education Cannot Wait has the potential to chart the path forward by developing the tools we need to deliver education," said U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Gayle Smith.
The United States has committed to an initial donation of $20 million for Education Cannot Wait. We urge all our friends and partners around the world to join us and invest in the future of those children who are in greatest need.