Let's end crisis and conflict not US aid — it starts with education
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Whenever emergencies leave governments too overwhelmed to provide basic requirements, like food, water, shelter, and education, they rely on aid workers for much needed support to alleviate human suffering. But these humanitarian organizations are severely underfunded, especially those that are providing education in emergencies, which currently gets around 2 percent of all humanitarian funding. This is nowhere near enough to reach the most vulnerable children and youth. And even this already diminutive support is at risk as news last week indicates that foreign aid funding through USAID may be frozen, due to the administration’s proposed reversal of the budget that Congress passed and the president signed in 2018.

America’s international humanitarian aid plays a key role in keeping kids safe around the world. For an already underfunded issue like education in emergencies, the proposed cuts will hit the hardest. For the 75 million kids whose education has been halted permanently or interrupted by conflict, crisis or displacement, this puts them at an even greater risk of violence, trafficking, child labor, child marriage and recruitment by extremist groups.

The normalcy and security of going to school and being part of a community can keep a child safe and motivated, helping them cope with trauma. Take, 5-year-old Daniel, whose family fled the crisis in Venezuela, travelling on foot for two months. They were robbed along the way, and Daniel had to grow up too soon, remaining strong for his pregnant mother and two younger siblings as they finally crossed the border into Peru. His family fled in search of a better life, but without access to education in their new home, their perilous journey will have been in vain.

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When asked about what he misses the most from home, Daniel immediately said ‘school.’ He missed being with his friends and teachers, and when asked about his future hopes, his only desire was to work so he could ensure his family never gets hungry again. When crisis strikes, education gives kids with endless potential, like Daniel, the tools and hope to build a better future, unlocking their potential to rebuild torn systems. But their education cannot wait.

In recognition of the fundamental role that a quality education plays in the lives of affected children and their families, a coalition of U.S. civil society organizations today released a joint statement asking the U.S. Government to provide funding for education in emergencies through a breakthrough fund aptly called: “Education Cannot Wait.” The fund repositions education as a priority when crises - whether natural or man-made, hit, offering a rapid-response mechanism that provide education in the onset of a crisis, and a comprehensive humanitarian education program to help children and youth through recovery phases.

This support would not have been possible without U.S. leadership. In 2016, at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, the U.S. was one of nine governments who, through a joint contribution from the State Department and USAID, made an initial $21 million contribution to the fund. This pledge helped, for example, to support the rebuilding and training efforts after the El-Niño-related mudslides in the Piura region of Peru as well as to the rapid-response to crises in Syria, Ethiopia and Yemen. Its impact was felt by children like 5-year-old Evans and Kauri, whose school was rebuilt in Peru and whose teachers and parents were trained in how to respond if another crisis hits. Evans and Kauri’s parents were relieved and grateful to see them return to new classrooms and resume classes with hope and excitement after losing their homes and classmates to the floods.

But U.S. funding to Education Cannot Wait has long since run out and other donors like Denmark and Germany have since made multiple commitments to Education Cannot Wait. Unfortunately, the onset of crisis around the world has not run out and the recent earthquakes in Mozambique, unrest in the Sudan and the Venezuelan crisis closer to home are timely reminders that we’re just one crisis away from another lost generation.

It’s time to ask the U.S. to step up again and keep the flow of aid to crisis affected and poverty stricken parts of the world flowing. Global Citizen together with Save the Children, Jesuit Refugee Service, UNICEF USA and many others who have signed the joint statement are asking USAID to release crucial funds to provide urgent assistance in 2019 to Education Cannot Wait and to appropriate at least $25 million from its 2019/2020 international affairs budget for the fund.

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And what better time than on World Humanitarian Day to make this call to stop the freezes and increase support for those who risk their own lives for a better future for others. As we commemorate the brave people who work on the front-line of the most dangerous places on earth, making sure no one is left behind, let’s make sure that we support, rather than halt their critical work.

Close to 60,000 constituents across the US have supported the campaign and we remain hopeful their voices will be heard by governmental leaders, helping advance quality education for every child, everywhere.

Madge Thomas is senior director of Global Policy and Government Affairs at Global Citizen.