UNICEF Racing to Help Displaced Syrian Children Return to School

Children across Syria are returning to school this week for the start of the new academic year, but they do so with uncertainty due to ongoing violence.

NEW YORK (September 17, 2012) — Children across Syria are returning to school this week for the start of the new academic year, but they do so in a state of uncertainty because of the ongoing violence.

According to the Ministry of Education, an estimated 2,072 schools have been damaged, while more than 800 additional ones are hosting families displaced by the conflict. Nearly 90 education staff has been killed. Ahead of last Sunday’s resumption of classes, the Government moved displaced families out of some schools and into alternative sites, including sports facilities.

During an initial phase of its emergency programs, UNICEF plans to reach up to 75,000 children with educational assistance. This includes the light rehabilitation of up to 150 damaged schools, the provision of 30,000 bags of school supplies to displaced children, and continued support for more than 100 school clubs that provide counseling, remedial education and recreational activities.

“It is vital to get children affected by the crisis back to learning as soon as possible. This will help them re-establish a sense of normalcy in their lives,” said Dina Craissati, UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Education Advisor.

Meanwhile, UNICEF is working with governments and other partners to support the estimated 66,900 registered Syrian refugee children of
school-age in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, where school has either already started or will do so soon. Actual numbers of school-age children, including un-registered children and those waiting to register, pushes the number still higher.

In Jordan, where the new school year started on September 4, about 17,000 Syrian refugee children are attending schools in host communities, with more expected. UNICEF and partner assistance includes tuition fees and textbooks, supplies, provision of additional classroom space, and equipping children and schools for the approaching winter.

Still, there is no school yet for the estimated 6,000 school-age children at Za’atari camp near the Jordan-Syria border. UNICEF and the Jordanian Ministry of Education have registered more than 1,150 children for a camp school expected to open at the end of September. There is a desperate need for additional funding to cover the cost of school furniture, teacher salaries, and water and sanitation facilities.

Education initiatives are also reaching refugee children in Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq. In Lebanon, UNICEF is working to ensure all 32,000 school-aged children from affected populations are enrolled in school. UNICEF is also rehabilitating 45 schools and raising awareness about school registration. In Iraq, 11 schools formerly used as shelters are being rehabilitated, additional class space has been provided, and a school enrolment campaign is reaching children at two refugee camps.

UNICEF still requires $40.4 million for its emergency response in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. With the situation deteriorating, that figure is expected to rise.

UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Director Maria Calivis said that additional funds are urgently needed to support the emergency education response. “The funding shortfall is undermining the impact of UNICEF’s work in supporting children’s return to learning. We need the support of the international community and we need it now,” said Calivis. 

How to help: For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Website: www.unicefusa.org/syria
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038

As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, the U.S. Fund will redirect any excess funds to children in greatest need.

About UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.

For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, smasur@unicefusa.org
Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2634, kschoop@unicefusa.org