March 10, 2015

Syrian refugees need more than food

Written by Amy R. West, American Institutes of Research (AIR)

This post originally appeared in Al Jazeera America online here.

Nearly 2.5 million people have fled Syria to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey since the conflict erupted in 2011. By the end of 2014, Syrian refugees are expected to number more than 4.1 million.

“Syria has become the great tragedy of this century — a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history,” said Antonio Gutteres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, last September.

Of the current refugees, more than 1.3 million are under the age of 18. Syria’s children, both refugees and those internally displaced, desperately need access not just to basic necessities but to education as well. Many of the Syrian children have been out of school for almost three years now. And, according to the United Nations refugee agency, two-thirds of school-age Syrian refugees are not getting any education.

During a visit to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan late last year, the U.N. envoy on youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, emphasized the need to ensure that young Syrians have access to education and vocational training. Yet prioritizing education to support refugee youth is a hard sell in emergency-response efforts. Only 14 percent of the $4.26 billion required to implement the Syrian Regional Response Plan has been allocated, according to the U.N. The proposed allocation for education under the plan (9 percent of total funding) is relatively small compared with other priority sectors such as food (28 percent). This is a reflection of competing priorities and the lack of emphasis placed on secondary education or the employability needs of youth under the U.N.’s Education for All initiative and the Millennium Development Goals.

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