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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
News article22 March 2023Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)3 min read

Education in emergencies: EU and UNICEF call for increased commitments to invest in safe and quality education for children in crisis

classroom with a teacher in front of a blackboard
© UNICEF, 2023. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.

Growing levels of displacement and protracted conflicts are having a severe impact on children and youth worldwide, with an estimated 222 million school-aged children and adolescents in need of education. This figure includes 78 million who are out of school.

Given this, the European Commission and UNICEF are calling for strengthened collective engagement and for an increase in public funding to help children caught up in fragile humanitarian settings to stay in, or to return to, learning. The call comes during the joint High-Level Conference on Education in Emergencies held on 22 March 2023 in Brussels, held back-to-back with the European Humanitarian Forum.

The destruction of schools and attacks on students and teachers are common in many conflict-ridden parts of the world.

Since the beginning of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, for example, more than 3,025 educational institutions have been bombed or shelled. In the Sahel, millions of children are kept away from school because of conflict. More than 2.6 million Syrian children live in camps, informal settlements and host communities in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Türkiye.

The EU aims to provide €158 million for education in emergencies projects globally in 2023.

Despite the enormous benefits to children, societies and entire countries, education is often the first service to be suspended and the last to be restored during crises. On average, the education sector receives less than 3% of humanitarian aid.

The EU dedicates 10% of its initial humanitarian aid budget to education in emergency situations. The same is true for development aid: with 10% of its initial budget allocated to education, the aim is to ensure a solid basis that will allow children to develop their talents and fulfil their potential.

Between 2015-2022, the EU allocated €970 million for education in emergencies, benefitting over 20 million children and young people. The EU has now been funding education in emergencies projects for over 10 years in its humanitarian aid programmes, since the Children of Peace initiative was established from funds received from the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.


Education in crises areas remains a major issue. The effects on the education of girls are even more dire: each year, for example, around 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 - including 38% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, 10 million more girls are at risk of early marriage and dropping out of school.

Children living in humanitarian crises have the right to quality education and training.

European Commission

The EU remains firmly committed to promote and support this right.

With its policy on education in emergencies and protracted crises, the EU aims at minimising the impact of crises on children's learning. One way to do this is by ensuring that children spend no more than three months outside education. This is a target we are working towards.

By making education in emergencies a part of its humanitarian response and linked closely with development cooperation, the EU makes full use of its humanitarian and development funding instruments to support children affected by crises.

From January to December 2023, the Commission is conducting an online campaign on Education no matter what, highlighting the challenges faced by children in fragile contexts around the world as they try to go back, or remain in, education – and their resilience in achieving this goal.


Together with the EU, UNICEF helps children in emergencies access uninterrupted education – especially girls, children with disabilities, internally displaced children, refugees and migrants.

UNICEF's programs help children develop skills to cope with the trauma of crisis, and supply them with learning spaces that are safe, child-friendly and equipped with water and sanitation facilities. Its work builds capacity by training teachers, supplying learning materials and supporting Governments to reduce the risk of disaster.

Through its work, UNICEF strongly advocates for a child's right to education and a protective learning environment, forging partnerships at the national and global levels to safeguard learning for every child.

UNICEF also support Governments as they implement the Safe Schools Declaration and Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.