Policy Brief

Policy Brief: Education in Emergencies

Save the Children
Save the Children
Publication Year:
April 24, 2020
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

In 2009 alone, more than 2 million children were affected by emergencies. In an emergency, people’s homes are often destroyed, their lives disrupted or they are forced to flee, which means that millions of children miss out on education. In the case of protracted emergencies, children may go for years without attending school. This briefing looks at: Education as a vital part of the emergency response; Why children can’t wait; Funding for education; and What Save the Children is calling for to ensure education is prioritized in all emergency situations

More than a million children are directly affected by emergencies on average every year. In natural disasters such as floods, droughts and earthquakes, and catastrophes such as famine and war, children suffer as buildings are destroyed, lives are lost or severely disrupted, and people are forced to flee to safety. As a consequence, they can miss out on education for weeks, months, or, in some cases, years. And missing out on education means they miss opportunities to grow and develop.

In 2009 alone, more than 2 million children were affected by emergencies. Cyclones, floods and earthquakes disrupted children’s education in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Vietnam and various countries across West Africa. Conflict prevented children from going to school in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gaza, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In the middle of a crisis and in the aftermath, children’s lives are severely disrupted as they try to cope with the ongoing dangers and rapidly changing situations the emergency creates. They can be exposed to extreme suffering – physical injury, bereavement, separation from their families, displacement and fear. They need protection, a sense of security, people they can trust, and a familiar routine to help them overcome the distress and instability they have experienced. Many of these needs can be addressed through providing safe spaces and opportunities to play, and learn. Parents also need to know their children are safe in schools, so that they can find missing relatives, bury their dead, queue for food or household equipment, enrol in cash-for-work schemes and rebuild their lives.

Every time Save the Children works to help communities affected by an emergency, children tell us that what they most want – alongside medicines, water, food and shelter – is to get back to school.


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