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Armed conflict creating child humanitarian crisis

Press release: Embargoed to 04.00pm Wednesday 13th September

Armed conflict creating humanitarian crisis for 43 million children

43 million children living in countries around the world wracked by war and armed conflict are being left without the chance to go to school according to new research to be launched in New Zealand on Wednesday 13th September 2006 when the Prime Minister launches Save the Children's first global campaign – Rewrite the Future. The NZ launch is in the Beehive Banquet Hall at 4pm.

New research from Save the Children reveals the devastating consequences of armed conflict on education in thirty countries [1]. Schools are destroyed or commandeered by armed forces, teachers are killed or flee to escape the violence [2], children can be recruited and forced to fight, and are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Save the Children has identified a ‘blind-spot’ among international donors who are reluctant to commit funds for education in conflict-affected countries [3]. The report finds that children living in these countries receive the least amount of aid for education [4] because donors find it too difficult to deliver aid to them.

Over 40 countries across the world will today launch ‘Rewrite the Future’, Save the Children’s biggest global campaign in its 85-year history. Among the campaigns international supporters are Archbishop Desmond Tutu and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Jan Egeland.

International donors see conflict-affected countries, where education is vital in breaking the lethal cycle of poverty, destruction and conflict, as not having adequate systems in place to ensure aid reaches the children who need it. Little has been done to rectify the situation. Instead donors have chosen to ignore the problem, leaving millions of children without an education for years.

John Bowis, Save the Children NZ's Executive Director said: “This is a humanitarian crisis that the world is choosing to ignore. Today, 43 million children face the prospect of being recruited and forced to fight, exploited as cheap labour and are more at risk of being trafficked and abused, all because they can’t go to school.

“These children live in the hardest to reach countries, in the harshest conditions – the mandate for where aid efforts must be focused. Yet, those with the power, knowledge and resources are failing to intervene because they won’t address the difficulties preventing them from delivering aid to the children who need it.

John Bowis continued: “Unless we ensure that aid for education reaches children affected by conflict, their futures - and the future of their nations - will remain bleak.”

School gives children a safe place to be, teaches them skills to protect themselves and can help them recover from trauma. Education is vitally important to children and parents living in conflict who know that it offers a route out of conflict and poverty.

Evidence suggests that primary education significantly contributes to a country's economic development. Of the world’s poorest countries 16 have suffered a major civil war in the past 20 years [5].

The report reveals:

- In 2003, more than half of armed conflicts used combatants under the age of 15.

- More than five million primary-aged children (6-11 years) are out of school in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and more than six million 12-17 year olds have never been to school.

- In Nepal, between January and August 2005, more than 11,800 students were abducted from rural schools for indoctrination or forced recruitment into the militia.

- In Afghanistan, most qualified teachers fled the conflict. Now fewer than 15% of teachers hold professional qualifications.

John Bowis, Save the Children NZ Executive Director, said: “Every world leader has committed themselves to getting every child into school by 2015. Next year we should be halfway to meeting this goal, yet at the current rate of progress they will fail.

“Now is our chance to change this. Save the Children is calling on all world leaders, governments and individuals to rewrite the future for millions of children.”

Save the Children is calling for:

- The international community to fill the funding gap by providing an extra US $5.8 billion in aid to fund education in conflict affected fragile states.

- The international community must ensure adequate systems are in place to deliver their aid to conflict affected countries.

- Education to be part of the humanitarian response in every emergency.

- All national governments to ensure government forces and armed militia who are violent towards teachers and students are prosecuted.

Over the next five years, Save the Children will ensure that three million out-of-school children in conflict-affected countries enter school by 2010 and, at the same time, improve the quality of education for five million more.

We will work in 20 countries helping to build schools, training teachers and provide essential materials such as books and pens. Save the Children will persuade national governments and international donors and institutions to significantly increase their funding for education and make education for more than 43 million children affected by armed conflict a priority.

Jan Egeland, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, said: “It is a moral outrage how the world is treating these children. The international community cannot leave vulnerable children, already living with the consequences of armed conflict, without the hope of a decent future. Children cannot wait for conflict to end before we give them the opportunity to go to school.”


[1] Save the Children has classified conflict-affected countries as ‘Conflict Affected Fragile States’ (CAFS) – a new definition based on a combination of factors and classifications with an emphasis on conflict and fragility. Of the 30 countries fighting is still going on in 18.
[2] Teachers are often targets as they are seen as important community members and government employees.
[3] Save the Children has classified conflict-affected countries as ‘Conflict Affected Fragile States’ (CAFS) – a new definition based on a combination of factors and classifications with an emphasis on conflict & fragility.
[4] Only 2% of humanitarian aid – which constitutes a large part proportion of the aid given to countries in chronic conflict – is allocated to education.
[5] Anderson E., Hague, S. "The Impact of Investing in Children: assessing the impact of public expenditure on child outcomes and economic development". Save the Children 2006. Mimeo

Notes to Editors

- Rewrite the Future will be launched, 12-13 September 2006, in over 40 countries throughout the world.

- Save the Children is asking millions of people around the world to join the global campaign to demand action from world leaders to give every child chance to go to school. High profile global celebrities already signed up include Penelope Cruz, Eva Longoria and Katie Melua. To support the campaign go to: www.savethechildren.net/rewritethefuture

- Copies of ‘Rewrite the Future’ can be downloaded from: www.savethechildren.net/rewritethefuture

- A Video News Release including new footage of children in conflict-affected countries will be available on Reuters World News Service.

- Save the Children fights for children around the world who suffer from poverty, disease, injustice and violence. We work with them to find lifelong answers to the problems they face.

© Scoop Media

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