People's Stories Children's Rights

Going to school is a lifeline for children
by Education Cannot Wait, Plan International
Jan. 2023
Our investment in education – especially for children caught in crisis and conflict – is our investment in a better future.
As we mark the International Day of Education, world leaders must make good on their promise of providing quality education for all by 2030.
Education is our investment in peace where there is war, our investment in equality where there is injustice, our investment in prosperity where there is poverty.
Make no mistake about it, there is a global education crisis that threatens to unravel decades of development gains, spur new conflicts, and upend economic and social progress across the globe.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted at last year’s Transforming Education Summit: “If we are to transform our world by 2030 as envisaged by the Sustainable Development Goals, then the international community must give this education crisis the attention it deserves.”
When Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, was founded in 2016, we estimated that 75 million crisis-impacted children required urgent education support. Today, that number has tripled to 222 million.
Of the 222 million children whose right to an education has been ripped from their hands by the multiplying impacts of conflict, climate change and other protracted crises, an estimated 78 million are out of school all together – more than the total populations of France, Italy or the United Kingdom.
Even when they are in school, many are not achieving minimum proficiencies in reading or math. Think about this terrifying statistic: 671 million children and adolescents worldwide cannot read. That’s more than 8% of the world’s total population. That’s an entire generation at risk of being lost.
As we have seen from the war in Ukraine, the challenges of the Venezuelan migration to Colombia and South America, the unforgiveable denial of education for girls in Afghanistan, and a devastating climate change-driven drought in the Horn of Africa that has created a severe hunger crisis for over 22 million people, we are living in an interconnected world. The problems of Africa, the Middle East, South America, and beyond are the problems of the world that we share together.
Every minute of every day, children are fleeing violence and persecution in places like Myanmar, the Sahel, South America and the Middle East. Every minute of every day, boys are being recruited as child soldiers in Somalia, the Central African Republic and beyond.
Every minute of every day, the climate crisis wreaks further havoc, and children go hungry because they are denied their right to go to school, where they might just have their only meal of the day.
And amid conflict, migration and climate change, governments like Colombia are struggling to secure the most basic living and education conditions for children in hard-to-reach borders.
It’s an assault on our humanity, a moral affront to the binding promises outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a giant step backwards in our persistent efforts – against all odds – to find peace in our times.
There is hope. By embracing a new way of working and delivering with humanitarian speed and development depth, Education Cannot Wait and its partners have reached 7 million children in just five years, with plans to reach 20 million more over the next four years.
Imagine what an education can mean for a child of war? In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 13-year-old Nyota lost her father and brothers in a brutal attack on her village. Her family’s home was burnt to the ground.
In a country where 3.2 million children are out of school, Nyota’s future was bleak. Would she be a child bride, the victim of sexual violence, another tragic statistic in a forgotten crisis?
No. She did not give up. With the support of an innovative programme funded by ECW, Nyota is back in school. “When I have completed my studies, I dream of becoming the President of my country to end the war here. That will allow children to study in peace and not endure the same horrible things that I have.”
Nyota is not alone: we have received inspiring letters from girls and boys in over 20 crisis-affected countries across the world that underscore the amazing value of education in transforming lives and creating a better future for generations to come.
We are calling on the people of the world to invest in the promise of an education. It’s the best investment we could make in delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Nyota and millions like her are not giving up on their dream, and we shouldn’t give up on them. We have promises to keep.
"Going to school is a lifeline for children, especially girls. Yet, around the world, children are being denied this fundamental right. We have heard about the near total ban on girls' education in Afghanistan and the catastrophic consequences of this. But the denial of girls' fundamental right to education goes far beyond Afghanistan. From Ukraine to South Sudan, conflict is disrupting girls' education as families are forced to flee for their safety – indeed, half of all refugee children are out of school,” says Global CEO of Plan International Stephen Omollo.
“Right now, 222 million crisis-affected children and adolescents need urgent education support and more than half of those are girls. It is critical that Education Cannot Wait is fully funded to ensure our global strategic partners, such as Plan International, are able to continue their impactful work to provide the safety, hope and opportunity of an education to the world’s most vulnerable girls and boys,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.
“In too many countries, education is being cut short by hunger or extreme weather linked to the climate crisis – or sometimes a combination of all of these. When girls are forced to drop out of school, it isn't just their education and life opportunities that suffer,” said Omollo.
“Adolescent girls, in particular, become even more vulnerable to violence, exploitation, early pregnancy and harmful practices, from child marriage to female genital mutilation. Indeed, the chances of a girl marrying as a child reduce by 6% with each year she remains in secondary education. We know that girls in crisis settings are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than those living in countries not in crisis.”
COVID-19 has shown, on a scale not seen before, the devastating impact health emergencies can have on learning for all children, especially girls. The pandemic has threatened decades of development gains, with children in crisis contexts being the most at risk.
Climate change is leading to more frequent and severe weather disasters, and perpetuating cycles of poverty, hunger, and displacement. In fact, the climate crisis is disrupting the education of 40 million children every year.
Conflicts lead to forced displacement and put children – especially girls – at grave risk of gender-based violence, child marriage and other violations of their human rights. As new frontiers of violence and instability emerge, girls are more at risk than ever before of being excluded from education.
Plan International and Education Cannot Wait also underline the importance of ensuring refugee and internally displaced children aren't overlooked and call for concrete commitments towards inclusive quality education for displaced children and youth.
These trends put untold pressure on economies, education systems and international assistance. Nevertheless, education responses are severely underfunded in emergencies and protracted crises. The total annual funding for education in emergencies as a percentage of the global sector-specific humanitarian budget in 2021 was just 2%. Plan International and Education Cannot Wait urge donor governments to increase humanitarian aid to education immediately.
On February 16, 2023 world leaders are gathering for the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference in Geneva. Hosted by ECW and Switzerland – and co-convened by Colombia, Germany, Niger, Norway and South Sudan – the conference provides world leaders, businesses, foundations and high-net-worth individuals with the opportunity to deliver on our promise of education for all. The aim is to raise US$1.5 billion for the next four years, to reach 20 million children in need.

Visit the related web page

Children continue to face wildly differentiating chances of survival based on where they are born
by UN Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality
Jan. 2023
An estimated 5 million children died before their fifth birthday and another 2.1 million children and youth aged between 5–24 years lost their lives in 2021, according to the latest estimates released by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME).
In a separate report also released today, the group found that 1.9 million babies were stillborn during the same period. Tragically, many of these deaths could have been prevented with equitable access and high-quality maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health care.
“Every day, far too many parents are facing the trauma of losing their children, sometimes even before their first breath,” said Vidhya Ganesh, UNICEF Director of the Division of Data Analytics, Planning and Monitoring. “Such widespread, preventable tragedy should never be accepted as inevitable. Progress is possible with stronger political will and targeted investment in equitable access to primary health care for every woman and child.”
The reports show some positive outcomes with a lower risk of death across all ages globally since 2000. The global under-five mortality rate fell by 50 per cent since the start of the century, while mortality rates in older children and youth dropped by 36 per cent, and the stillbirth rate decreased by 35 per cent. This can be attributed to more investments in strengthening primary health systems to benefit women, children and young people.
However, gains have reduced significantly since 2010, and 54 countries will fall short of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals target for under-five mortality. If swift action is not taken to improve health services, warn the agencies, almost 59 million children and youth will die before 2030, and nearly 16 million babies will be lost to stillbirth.
“It is grossly unjust that a child’s chances of survival can be shaped just by their place of birth, and that there are such vast inequities in their access to lifesaving health services,” said Dr Anshu Banerjee, Director for Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organization (WHO). “Children everywhere need strong primary health care systems that meet their needs and those of their families, so that – no matter where they are born – they have the best start and hope for the future.”
Children continue to face wildly differentiating chances of survival based on where they are born, with sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia shouldering the heaviest burden, the reports show. Though sub-Saharan Africa had just 29 per cent of global live births, the region accounted for 56 per cent of all under-five deaths in 2021, and Southern Asia for 26 per cent of the total. Children born in sub-Saharan Africa are subject to the highest risk of childhood death in the world – 15 times higher than the risk for children in Europe and Northern America.
Mothers in these two regions also endure the painful loss of babies to stillbirth at an exceptional rate, with 77 per cent of all stillbirths in 2021 occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Nearly half of all stillbirths happened in sub-Saharan Africa. The risk of a woman having a stillborn baby in sub-Saharan Africa is seven times more likely than in Europe and North America.
“Behind these numbers are millions of children and families who are denied their basic rights to health,” said Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank and Director of the Global Financing Facility. “We need political will and leadership for sustained financing for primary health care which is one of the best investments countries and development partners can make.”
Access to and availability of quality health care continues to be a matter of life or death for children globally. Most child deaths occur in the first five years, of which half are within the very first month of life. For these youngest babies, premature birth and complications during labour are the leading causes of death. Similarly, more than 40 per cent of stillbirths occur during labour – most of which are preventable when women have access to quality care throughout pregnancy and birth. For children that survive past their first 28 days, infectious diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria pose the biggest threat.
While COVID-19 has not directly increased childhood mortality – with children facing a lower likelihood of dying from the disease than adults – the pandemic may have increased future risks to their survival. In particular, the reports highlight concerns around disruptions to vaccination campaigns, nutrition services, and access to primary health care, which could jeopardize their health and well-being for many years to come. In addition, the pandemic has fuelled the largest continued backslide in vaccinations in three decades, putting the most vulnerable newborns and children at greater risk of dying from preventable diseases.
The reports also note gaps in data, which could critically undermine the impact of policies and programmes designed to improve childhood survival and well-being.
Dec. 2021
The world remains significantly off track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on ending the preventable deaths of newborns and children under five, according to the latest estimates released by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME).
UN IGME is convened by UNICEF and includes the World Health Organization, the World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
According to the report, more than 50 countries will not meet the under-five mortality target by 2030, and more than 60 countries will miss the neonatal mortality target without immediate action. The SDGs call for an end to preventable deaths of newborns and children under age 5, with all countries aiming to have a neonatal mortality rate of 12 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births, and an under-five mortality rate of 25 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births, by 2030.
The report states that more than 5 million children died before their fifth birthday in 2020 alone, along with 2.2 million children and youth aged 5 to 24.
“We are still losing too many young lives from largely preventable causes, often because of weak and underfunded health systems which have faced enormous pressure over the pandemic. And the burden of these deaths is not carried equally around the world. Children in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia continue to face the highest risk of death in the world, and to bear the brunt of this child mortality burden,” said Mark Hereward, UNICEF’s Associate Director on Data and Analytics.
“If we are going to achieve the child mortality SDGs in all countries, we must redouble efforts to ensure access to effective and high-quality care along with the continued expansion of coverage of life-saving interventions.”
The UN IGME report also said that recent and reliable data on child, adolescent and youth mortality remains unavailable for most countries of the world, particularly for low-income countries, and the COVID-19 pandemic has posed additional challenges to improving data availability and quality. Only about 60 countries, mainly high-income, have a well-functioning Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System which produces timely, high-quality mortality data.
In low- and middle-income countries, huge data gaps remain – two thirds (97 out of 135 countries) have had no reliable mortality data in the past 3 years. Likewise, the COVID-19 pandemic posed more challenges to data collection and highlighted the urgent need to fill data gaps.
“Countries must invest in quality health services, nutrition, and other life-saving interventions for women and children to ensure the hard-won gains in combating child mortality are not lost and to meet the SDGs,” the report underlines.
Investments in the COVID-19 response and in global health should strengthen all elements of global healthcare infrastructure, including leaving a lasting impact on data and primary health systems to help end preventable child deaths.
“Intensified efforts are needed to deliver quality health care services for all children and adolescents, which also means collecting the necessary data to ensure that their physical, developmental and emotional needs are being met throughout their life,” said Dr Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organization (WHO). “Investing in children is one of the most important things a society can do to build a better future.”
The report warns that because the data remains poor, outcomes for children and adolescents in 2021 and beyond remain unknown. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic may affect child mortality differently by age group and socioeconomic status. Timely and accurate data and close monitoring will be needed to understand the long-term impact of COVID-19.

Visit the related web page

View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook