The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) is warning that six million school children in East Africa will have their education disrupted if funds aren’t raised and aid fails to be delivered.
On Wednesday, the DEC, made up of 13 leading UK aid agencies, launched its East Africa Crisis Appeal to raise money for the 16 million people in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya who are at risk of starvation. Today the committee is highlighting the devastating impact drought and famine is having on children and their education.
Figures released by the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs showed that in Somalia and Ethiopia, nearly 340,000 school children are being forced out of education due to schools temporarily closing and in Kenya, 175,000 pre-primary and primary school children in ten counties are out of school due to the impact of drought. In South Sudan, statistics released by UNICEF in 2016 showed 51% of children who are primary and lower secondary school age are out of education; the highest proportion of children not attending school in the world.
In Kilifi county, south of Kenya, a lack of rainfall has led to crop failure and livestock deaths. Food is scarce and there isn’t enough to go around. At one local school, 14 per cent of pupils have dropped out due to lack of food at home and only 15 pupils sat their national exams this year.
Peter, from the county, said: “My children are suffering. Sometimes we lack food for more than one day. If they eat at night and then have no breakfast then they don’t want to go to school. I can’t force them to go to school when they are hungry and weak.”
Jumo, Peter’s 13-year-old son, said: “I have missed school more than once a week since second term due to lack of food.”
Global children’s charity Plan International UK, a DEC member charity, is working to keep children in education by delivering school feeding programmes to communities in Kenya and South Sudan, but more funds are needed to reach more children and communities like Jumos.
Tanya Barron, chief executive of Plan International UK, said: “Keeping girls and boys in education is incredibly important, especially in a time of crisis. Going to school maintains a sense of normality, keeps up their learning and is also where other key services can be delivered. In the long run it will also help them break the cycle of poverty, which is so important for the future of East Africa.”
Another reason children, especially girls, are leaving school is to support their families. Farhan Ismael is head teacher at Balicabane School in Somaliland, he told charity ActionAid: “Children’s education and development is going backwards. We see children progressing well and then something like this drought happens and things start changing.
“Drought impacts girls more than boys. When a family moves with their livestock, a girl usually drops out of school because she has to stay at home and take care of the family. She has no time to study.”
Canab is 13 and lives in a displacement camp in Somaliland. She has put her education on hold to raise her younger siblings after her parents left several months ago to find food and water. Canab said: “I miss my mother a lot. I think about her every day. I feel very tired and exhausted.
“It's not easy to be like a mother to the children. But I do my best. I do feel lonely and scared especially at night time.
In Somalia, where children under 18 make up half the population, education facilities, especially in urban areas, have been coming under increasing pressure as more and more people travel around looking for food and water. That’s why DEC member charity Save the Children has established several temporary learning spaces, equipped with teaching materials, to encourage those affected by the food crisis to continue their education. This education response aims to reach 56,000 people in Somalia alone.
Saleh Saeed, DEC Chief Executive, said: “It is shocking to hear that children are dropping out of school due to hunger and to care for their families, but sadly it’s not surprising. Communities are out of food and the drought has led to crops failing and livestock dying, so education is just not a priority. Failure to act now will result in millions of children missing out on an education, which could be devastating in the longer term and could lead to a lost generation of children. £100 could provide supplies to a clinic treating severely malnourished children for a week. So please don’t delay, donate now!”
To make a donation to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal visit www.dec.org.uk, call the 24-hour hotline on 0370 60 60 610, donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office, or send a cheque. You can also donate £5 by texting the word SUPPORT to 70000.
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Notes to editors:
- High resolution photos available and interviews.
- Media enquiries please call 020 7387 0200 or 07930 999 014 (out of hours).
- The DEC brings 13 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis: ActionAid, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Oxfam, Plan International UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision; all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly.
- All DEC agencies will support the appeal and are responding in East Africa.
- To make a postal donation make cheques payable to ‘DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal’ and mail to ‘PO Box 999, London, EC3A 3AA’.
- Donations can be made at any high street bank and at Post Office counters.
- To donate £5 by text send the word SUPPORT to 70000. The full £5 will go to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal. Donors must be 16 years or over and have bill payers’ permission. Texts are free and donations will be added to the bill.