The lives of millions of children in many countries are blighted by recurrent, slow-onset emergencies. In two current chronic crises – the food crisis in east Africa that began in 2011, and the 2012 crisis in the Sahel region of west Africa – children’s well-being has plummeted.
Food scarcity and malnutrition jeopardise the survival and health of the youngest children. And the knock-on effects of these crises permeate all aspects of children’s lives. That includes, of course, their education: many children are forced to drop out of school in slow-onset emergencies – either to migrate, or to support their families by doing household work or income-generating activities.
Yet education has a key role to play in helping children survive and progress in slow-onset emergencies. It provides a platform for an integrated emergency response. And, in the longer term, through disaster preparedness and adaptation, education builds the resilience of children and their communities to cope with future droughts, and secures learning that is relevant to children’s needs.
Given this, it is alarming that discussions about how to mitigate the impact of drought in east Africa and in the Sahel have failed to incorporate education as part of the key interventions and strategies. The failure of donors and governments to prioritise education from the outset threatens to:
• exacerbate the impact of the crises on children
• over-stretch education systems
• affect the implementation of good-quality education interventions – both immediately and in the long term.
Even before these crises, high numbers of children were out of school, and there are large and growing young populations in these areas.
This report focuses on the role and importance of education in mitigating the impact of droughts in east Africa and west Africa. Its recommendations are relevant both to those crises and to other countries likely to face slow-onset emergencies in the future.