Financing for education in emergencies coming up short in the wake of COVID-19

Time to reinvest to meet growing educational needs

Funding for education in emergencies (EiE) is falling behind. It is far from meeting the needs of the millions of school-aged children and youth affected globally by crises, who require educational support.

This is the conclusion of a new report released today by the Geneva Global Hub for EiE at an event hosted by the Permanent Missions of Switzerland and Niger to the UN in Geneva. The report provides, for the first time, a comprehensive assessment of the multiple funding sources for EiE, highlighting key trends and gaps.

In 2021, humanitarian funding for EiE reached a record level of $807 million. But, with needs growing even quicker due to conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, this was insufficient to provide millions of children safe, inclusive, and quality education.

Across UN-led humanitarian appeals, the education sector was just 22% funded in 2021 – half of what it was in 2018. Despite increased awareness of the problem, EiE continues to be an under-appreciated and under-funded part of humanitarian responses.

“As a global community, we are committed to achieving SDG4 ensuring the right to education for all children and youth. Yet, the reality is that we are currently falling behind in reaching this goal,” said Patricia Danzi, Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). “In this context, I cannot overstate the importance of this new report on the current state of global financing for Education in Emergencies. The flagship report offers avenues to address the significant funding gap in EiE.”

The report proposes several actions to address the funding gap in EiE.

The tracking of funding for EiE needs to be improved to better inform decisions about where limited resources are best spent, with the study recommending the creation of a public platform linking all existing EiE data sources.

A more joined-up approach between humanitarian funding and development cooperation for EiE is also needed. Official development assistance for education in crisis countries reached $5.7 billion in 2020, more than eight times the level of humanitarian assistance. This can be leveraged further to support better learning outcomes for children, but that will only happen with greater coordination between all education actors to make sure the limited funding available for EiE is allocated to where it is needed most.

“Too often, education funding is skewed towards high-profile crises that either have received extensive media coverage or are geopolitically important to donors,” said report author Damian Lilly. “More needs to be done to address the inequities and unpredictability of education funding, so all children have access to the education they deserve.”

With the UN hosting a Transforming Education Summit (TES) in September, there needs to be stronger political commitment to EiE. And these key recommendations for EiE financing will be important in the leadup to the next High-Level Financing Conference for Education Cannot Wait (ECW), which ECW Director Yasmine Sherif announced will take place in February 2023. Donors will be asked to make specific commitments to fund EiE, and the recommendations in this report should be reflected in those commitments.

“We are calling on world leaders, donors, the private sector and philanthropic foundations to step up with the absolute fierce urgency of now to respond to this crisis of epic proportions,” said Sherif. “Our investment in education today – for girls and boys caught in protracted crises and emergencies – is our investment in the dreams and hopes of each of these children, and in a more peaceful, more prosperous and humane world tomorrow. Without substantial additional, predictable, and flexible funding to immediately scale up the support for safe, continuing, inclusive quality education for girls and boys caught in the most challenging crisis-contexts, we will not achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG) and all other SDGs.”

It is clear that the need for EiE funding is growing, and the gap between that need and the resources available is getting larger. New commitments to EiE financing are essential to addressing this challenge, as are innovative, collaborative solutions that make better use of existing support.