Finn Church Aid (FCA) has granted 100 000 euros from its relief fund to Yemen. After years of ongoing conflict, the water supply in the country has collapsed, and different waterborne diseases, including cholera, torment especially the children and elderly in vulnerable condition.
FCA’s emergency assistance is channelled through a local partner to strengthen the water supply in Dhamar governorate, where the conflict has left over 200 000 people without water.
”Yemen has not been FCA’s programme country, but we want to be part of the emergency relief as the needs in the country are massive. As a consequence of the prolonged crisis, needs are still growing and people suffer from famine, undernutrition and lack of potable water and health care,” says FCA’s Head of Humanitarian Assistance Eija Alajarva.
According to estimations, the cholera epidemic in Yemen is the largest in the world. The World Health Organisation WHO estimates that there are over one million cholera cases in the country.
With FCA’s support, two water systems will be constructed to secure the water supply of 8 000 people in Dhamar. In addition, water committees will be created to manage the systems and control the quality of the water. Furthermore, solar panels will be installed to pump the water.
Yemen has been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East even before the conflict started in 2015. Years of war have had devastating effects on the country, and the humanitarian crisis has worsened alarmingly during the year 2018 and spring 2019. According to the UN, three quarters of the population of 30 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.
When thinking of children and youth in their usual environment, we think of them amidst their families and friends, in the playground, and first and foremost, in schools.
We grow up with school being a natural part of our lives. We are nervous on our first day in school, excited to learn how to read, write or count and soon after our first day, school has become part of our daily routines. Getting older, decisions such as choosing the type of secondary school, vocational training or university become key to our personal and professional development.
However, there are also the social aspects of school. Most of you may now think of your childhood friends from kindergarten or primary school. They are often the ones that accompany us all through our lives. At school, children learn how to communicate, to interact and play with others, how to compromise, just to name a few.
When I look back on my time in school, I remember how proud and excited I was to be called a pupil. And that was even more true for my younger siblings for whom it meant to be a member of “the big ones” when they finally were allowed to attend school.
Reality, however, shows that our world is anything but perfect. Not every child gets the opportunity to go to school, learn, thrive and interact socially. Children grow up in conflict zones, are suffering from natural disasters, and as a result are often forced to leave their homes and familiar environment.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) 68.5 million people are displaced, among them 25.4 million refugees, meaning they had to cross a boarder to be safe. Out of those 25.4 million, over half are under 18. And while politicians in the so called West want to make us believe that all these refugees and displaced people are coming to Europe, 85 % are actually hosted by developing countries.
We know also, that the causes for displacement are not easily overcome – just look at the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, The Democratic Republic of Congo or the situation of Rohingya in Myanmar. According to the UNHCR, on average people remain displaced for over 20 years.
By now you may have become aware of the point I want to make – right – the importance of securing education for these millions of displaced children and youth. Displacement takes longer than before, and simply providing shelter, water, food and medical services over such a long time is just not sufficient for a dignified life with some sort of future prospective.
I am currently working in Bangladesh in the Rohingya response and I’m witnessing first-hand how providing Education in Emergencies (EiE) can impact people’s lives. And that’s not only the case for children and youths but also for the lives of our volunteer teachers from the community. Each context has its special characteristics but overall we can claim that access to at least some sort of – and at best quality, accredited – education gives families back some routines, a sense of normality and perspective.
During class, children and youth can focus on something else than their daily struggle or previous experiences. Education means a gaining in knowledge, but also contributes to psycho-social well-being, emotional learning, the improvement of social networks, and it provides parents and caregivers with spare time for other tasks, such as earning a living while children are in school.
In humanitarian crisis in particular, we mainly tend to think of children’s education. This is not enough – we need to think of sustainable, more long-term solutions and not forget about secondary and tertiary education. Especially youth very often get a raw deal but are at the same time most at risk if they are not given any prospects for their future. Furthermore, if there are no follow-ups available after primary level there comes a point when attendance drops. Opportunities at secondary level and above can consequently also contribute to better attendance in lower levels.
While providing education in emergencies is not intended to compete with lifesaving services, I think we also have to start to acknowledge that the course of emergencies changed and call for a shift to more long-term – or at least mid-term – approaches and funding structures.
Only then can we ensure that children, youth and whole communities do get perspectives and we can hopefully also contribute to changes in perception. What I mean is not to think of displaced people only as helpless and defined by the situation they are in, but as people who have something to offer, who have potential, are skilled, knowledgeable, and so many other things rather than just victims.
The writer is an Education in Emergencies Professional, currently working as Education Programme Manager for FCA (seconded to DCA) in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
 UNHCR: Figures at a Glance
 UNHCR: Global Trends: Forced displacement in 2016
How is advocacy best done for financing of education and the SDG goal 4, especially in situations of emergency and conflict? Is good advocacy about gathering evidence and data, and then meeting influential people with fat check-books? Or is it better to be out on the streets, mobilising grass-roots and sharing stories of injustice? When you have a bunch of very feisty civil society campaigners from across the Arab world and Eastern European countries meeting the regional networks in Africa, Asia, and Latin-America in Beirut for a few days, as happened last week, then the answer is a bit of both.
The Arab Campaign for Education for All, together with UNESCO and the Open Society Foundation, had invited representatives of both national coalitions and education ministries of Somalia, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, and Jordan to meet with their colleagues from Albania, Moldova and Georgia, as well as the coordinators from the regional networks and representatives from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), Education International (EI), the Right to Education Initiative (RTE) and others.
For an organisation like FCA, whose work focuses on linking education to earning opportunities for young people and to peace, the question regarding how to best use our advocacy efforts to secure funding are fundamental. FCA works in several of the countries that were present in the meeting. We are closely involved in advocacy for better funding for development at the global level, especially for emergencies and fragile countries. As such, we try to influence decisions taken by national governments and funding initiatives like the ECW and GPE, either as a single agency, or through ACT Alliance, or via the very close relationship we have with INEE.
However, in a conference that is full of activists, a question that rises for FCA and for INEE as well, is how much should we align ourselves with the street-fighters, for whom every struggle is political and ideological? Whose agenda often springs from very strong social movements in Africa and Latin America, closely linked to teacher unions and other left-leaning organisations, and who work hard to mobilise youth through empowerment and inclusion?
Or should we instead focus on the ‘movers and shakers’ in New York and Brussels, the influential people, who can sway large funding streams and direct them the right way to ensure that as many as possible get their fair share of the cake? But who, on the other hand, also sometimes represent governments and organisations that promote their own interest, and for whom international development is just a source of business and of winning elections.
There are similar fundamental questions considering which funding streams we should be looking at and trying to influence. More than 95 % of all funding to education – in time of peace – comes from domestic sources, not from international aid. Perhaps this means that New York is not the right place to do advocacy; that instead we need to dress up in our jeans and hoodies and support local civil society, and demand that local governments use much more of their budget on education (and less on military), and try to push for tax reforms that make multinationals and the rich pay their fair share. In emergencies, this figure of 95 % goes down drastically, as often the government disappears and there are no taxes. People are on the move, and education systems become reliant on coordination from the outside and on international funding streams, directed from New York, Brussels and Geneva. Therefore we must travel to these places, put on our dark suits and enter the corridors of power, to speak on behalf of local civil society and young learners denied an education.
Whatever the approach we choose – and of course it is always a bit of both! – the meeting produced a very strong sense of a shared responsibility for us all to stand up – either in front of influential people or out on the streets – and to demand that financing for education in emergencies must be quick, meaning available to be disbursed immediately; long-term, meaning disbursed predictably over multiple years; flexible and allocated to non-formal as well as formal solutions; equitable, meaning that it should be spread evenly across all emergencies and intended to reach all children; and lastly additional, in order to not displace other aid and support, but instead to be directed to new and necessary evidence based interventions.
The meeting also produced this wonderful poem from one of the participants, outlining the four S’s that must guide all our work:
To build a nation,
You need education
So, governments that care,
Should pay a fair SHARE!
And citizens should always resent
Anything less than 20 percent.
But the budget SIZE
Is the biggest prize;
So, let’s make rich companies face the facts
And force them to pay much more tax.
Then allocate funds with SENSITIVITY
For more equity and creativity
And to make sure that its spent truthfully
Invest in civil society SCRUTINY.
The right to education will materialise
With sensitivity, scrutiny, share and size.
So, the simple message that we should stress is
That education budgets need four S’s.
(copyright David Archer, ActionAid International)
The writer is seconded by FCA to work as an Advocacy Coordinator for the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), see ineesite.org