Education in Emergencies featured at first European Humanitarian Forum

Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies brings perspective from three humanitarian crises to high-level political forum

Geneva, 21 March 2022 – The Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies hosted an online Humanitarian Talk as part of the first ever European Humanitarian Forum, held in Brussels 21-23 March.

Ambassador Felix Baumann, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN, opened the event with a call for greater commitment to education in emergencies, “which remains an under-addressed and under-funded part of humanitarian response.” He reiterated Switzerland’s ongoing commitment to addressing this challenge.

The event saw contributions from several front-line humanitarian professionals, including one in Romania helping manage the influx of Ukrainian arrivals into the European Union, another in Venezuela, and a third in South Sudan working with the ongoing humanitarian emergencies in those places. A fourth contributor from Porticus spoke from the perspective of a donor organisation.

They explained how education and child protection go together in helping at-risk children and young people face threats from conflict and other emergencies. Displaced children and those caught in crisis face challenges, such as those related to mental health, child marriage, being forced into child labour to support themselves and their families, and recruitment into armed groups or gangs.

“Child Protection and education actors work in the same communities, serving interrelated and overlapping needs of children,” said Dieuwerke Luiten, Global Grant Manager at Porticus. “EiE responses cannot ignore protection and wellbeing, while child-friendly spaces cannot ignore learning. By bringing the sectors together we can serve the holistic needs of children and promote their wellbeing.”

“Education cannot work in a vacuum,” said Lucy Mbarago, Field Officer in Yambio, UNICEF South Sudan. “Schools should work with traditional leadership structures, faith groups and mothers’ groups to build up sustainable learning and child protection systems.”

Mariana Arnautu, Senior Expert, Educational and Child Protection Programs with World Vision International, emphasised the importance of accommodating children with special needs in crises such as the one now engulfing Ukraine and surrounding countries: “It’s important for schools to be supported with additional staff and resources to enable integration – including professionals who can respond to the needs of refugee or displaced children. Teachers cannot be social workers, psychiatrists, and so on, all in one. They need the support of professionals in those fields.”

Henry Renna Gallano, Education Cluster Coordinator, Venezuela, summed up the need for broad collaboration: “This may be obvious, but the (Education, Child Protection, Health, etc.) clusters are just our structures – the crisis itself is not organized by clusters. We need to go beyond cluster thinking and organise across all sectors to deliver a common service package for mental health, MHPSS, education and child protection.”

Several speakers also emphasised the urgent need to actively seek out more constructive collaboration between sectors in humanitarian response, not least because lack of coordination can lead to different priorities ending up in competition with each other, harming the overall effectiveness of interventions.

Mark Chapple, Head of Education, ICRC, who closed the event, emphasised that: “protection of children and protection of education during conflict starts with physical protection from attack. Where the ICRC works, we engage with all parties involved in conflict to remind them of their obligations.”