‘This generous donation will allow Education Cannot Wait to scale up its support of a coordinated response among governments, UN agencies and civil society organizations to bring a glimmer of hope to children of all ages in the most crisis-affected countries in the world.’ – Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait

30 March 2020 – Given the unprecedented times that coronavirus is causing around the world, the LEGO Foundation is donating $50 million to support children most in need.

The mission of the LEGO Foundation is to ensure no child goes without play and educational opportunities. Given the impact that coronavirus is having around the world, the charity has donated $50 million to ensure that children in the most need will continue to have access to learning through play.

Three groups of partners will receive the donation, according to the official statement:

  • Education Cannot Wait, which provides education for children caught in emergencies and protracted crises.
  • A selection of existing LEGO Foundation partners whose work with children and families is under additional pressure from COVID-19.
  • Charity partners serving communities where the LEGO Group has a significant presence. Our aim is to urgently reach crisis-affected children with essential supplies and provide support to continue learning through play.

“We cannot let COVID-19 setback a generation of children. Research shows that while learning through play is vital for children’s psychological, emotional and cognitive health and development, it also hones the resilience they need to overcome adversity and build their futures. We must support all children, including the most vulnerable in society, to ensure they continue to have access to education and develop skills critical for them to thrive in a constantly changing world,” says John Goodwin, CEO, the LEGO Foundation. “We are honored to be able to collaborate and support Education Cannot Wait and our other partners who are working extremely hard in unforgiving circumstances to bring education, hope and a future to the most vulnerable children.”

“We are grateful that the LEGO Foundation has stepped forward as the first private sector partner to contribute to our COVID-19 response,” says Yasmine Sherif, Education Cannot Wait Director. “This generous donation will allow Education Cannot Wait to scale up its support of a coordinated response among governments, UN agencies and civil society organizations to bring a glimmer of hope to children of all ages in the most crisis-affected countries in the world. Learning must continue in the midst of the pandemic. The LEGO Foundation’s commitment to learning through play is a shining example of what’s possible and we encourage more philanthropic, private sector and government donor partners to come forward.”

View originals on Lego Foundation and Brickfanatics websites.


Photo ©UNICEF/UN0339412/Frank Dejongh

Armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate change induced disasters and protracted crises have disrupted the education of 75 million children and youth globally. And that number is growing in an unprecedented way with the spread of COVID-19.  Education has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic with 1.53 billion learners out of school and 184 country-wide school closures, impacting 87.6% of the world’s total enrolled learners. Drop-out rates across the globe are likely to rise as a result of this massive disruption to education access.

While other critical needs such as health, water and sanitation are being responded to, educational needs cannot be forgotten and these have an equally detrimental impact if left unaddressed. The ‘pile-on effect’ of the coronavirus is that, during the global COVID-19 pandemic, interruptions to education can have long term implications — especially for the most vulnerable.  There is a real risk of regression for children whose basic, foundational learning (reading, math, languages, etc.) was not strong to begin with. And millions of children who have already been deprived of their right to education, particularly girls, are being more exposed to health and well-being risks (both psychosocial and physical) during COVID-19. These are the children and youth we at Education Cannot Wait (ECW) prioritize, including:

  • Girls: Young and adolescent girls are twice as likely to be out of school in crisis situations and face greater barriers to education and vulnerabilities such as domestic/gender-based violence when not in school.
  • Refugees, displaced and migrant children: These populations often fall between the cracks as national policies might not necessarily include these vulnerable groups and they must be included and catered for in any global responses to this crisis if this has not already occurred.
  • Children and youth with disabilities: Along with other marginalized populations, including children from minority groups, are neglected in the best of times and have lower educational outcomes than their peers.
  • Young people affected by trauma or mental health issues: Schools and learning centers are places for communities to address health related issues, including mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), which the most vulnerable students rely on for their wellbeing and development in order to learn.

Without access to education, as shocks are experienced – including loss of life, health impacts and loss of livelihoods – children are more vulnerable and unprotected.  As household finances are being strained and needs increase, out-of-school children are more likely to be exposed to risks like family violence, child labor, forced marriage, trafficking and exploitation, including by responders. For the most vulnerable children, education is lifesaving. Not only does it provide safety and protection, importantly, it also instils hope for a brighter future.

So continuing education through alternative learning pathways, as soon as possible, must also be a top priority right now, to ensure the interruption to education is as limited as possible.  We urgently need to support teachers, parents/caregivers, innovators, communications experts and all those who are positioned to provide education, whether through radio programmes, home-schooling, online learning and other innovative approaches.

What does this mean for responders like ECW? In the short term, this means we must maintain access to learning and ensure kids retain knowledge and skills (i.e. through temporary remote, alternative or distance learning programmes). In the medium term, this means catching up and transitioning students who have fallen behind or had a break in their education to re-join their level of schooling and competency (i.e. automatic promotion with a mandatory catchup/remedial period at the beginning). In the longer term, this means there is a need for education systems to be set up with contingency capacities to mitigate and manage risk in the future.


Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in emergencies, was launched in 2016 at the World Humanitarian summit to coordinate responses and raise financing for education in emergencies, and distributes funds where they are needed most and as quickly as possible, to continue children’s education in times of crisis.

  • Given our geographical footprint across emergency and crisis-context countries and the vulnerable child and youth population that ECW serves, COVID-19 represents yet another burden in a series of challenges already experienced by them, their families and communities.
  • Crisis response is what we know, and we consider COVID-19 to be a crisis of profound magnitude for all humanity, unprecedented in our lifetime.
  • We are closely connected to our partners on the ground in vulnerable communities and are working with them to urgently assess additional needs and determine what support and funding are most impactful. This is how we work to ensure no child is left behind or exploited by this pandemic. After extensive consultations with these partners and across the UN system, we are responding to the COVID-19 crisis with every tool at our disposal.
  • In our education in emergency responses, we consider holistic spectrum of needs that children and youth, their parents and caregivers, educators and communities face during crisis. This includes MHPSS, child protection, school feeding, gender equality, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene education, school infrastructure, teacher training and quality learning materials.
  • Through holistically planned interventions, we take a birds-eye view of the entire developmental needs of a child in crisis and ensure our funded responses address their needs and coordinate wraparound support or fill gaps not supported by others.
  • We also require our partner organizations to apply child safeguarding measures, manage risks to children, including risks associated with personnel and volunteers who are in contact with vulnerable children, and to report child safeguarding concerns to ECW.
  • We detail below how ECW ensures that these principles and the complex and holistic needs of affected children and youth are met within COVID-19 responses that we fund.


Our immediate challenge is to educate children where they are, within the infrastructure and setting they are in. This requires innovation and creativity to enhance remote learning tools, services and education. ECW has a range of expertise and background in innovative education solutions in crisis situations, including addressing mental health and wellbeing needs.  Our support includes:

  • Complying and coordinating with the UN’s overall guidance and response. At the country level, we coordinate responses with the UN Humanitarian/Resident Coordinator and Designated Official for Security, as well as UN agencies to determine parameters and priorities, risk-assessments and directives, while ensuring the critical importance of education in the response is recognized and prioritized. We continue to coordinate responses through the Global Education Cluster and UNHCR (for refugee situations).
  • At the global level, ECW is part of UNESCO’s Global COVID-19 Education Coalition and, as a UN-hosted fund, ECW participates in all other multilateral coordination efforts undertaken by the broader UN system and UN Appeals. ECW uses both our First Emergency Response (FER) or the Acceleration Facility window to support these initiatives as relevant and necessary.
  • ECW’s priority is to provide and deploy urgent funding and use our in-built agility and emergency-design to respond quickly to education needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. ECW funds and ensures quality learning for the most vulnerable, in a safe, inclusive environment and through innovative and cost-effective responses in affected countries.
  • For existing countries that we support, this means: Organizations can apply under the First Emergency Response (FER) and Multi-Year Resilience Programme (MYRP) windows for funding, or to quickly and easily re-programme and re-orient their efforts in line with local needs and coordinated measures.  We provide immediate support and fast-track any requests.
  • For new countries and regions that need our support that means: If education has been affected as a result of the COVID-19 crisis in a country we haven’t worked with, and that meets ECW’s criteria, they can apply to our COVID FER window or Acceleration Facility. Proposals may enable local and international civil society organizations, NGOs, UN agencies, government bodies and others to respond to the needs they are seeing on the ground.
  • Based on our connection to front-line responders and humanitarian expertise, we provide support, technical guidance and expertise to our partners in affected communities to ensure the most vulnerable are not left behind and that children’s immediate needs – education, health well-being and more – are met.
    • For instance, access to clean water and sanitation, as well as hygiene education (WASH) is critical for every school-aged child right now. ECW can provide technical expertise, funding and infrastructure support to ensure children continue to manage their hygiene and health, as part of their education.
    • ECW wants to ensure that children and adolescents don’t fall behind, but gain tools needed to ‘weather this storm’ and develop skills to better navigate life’s challenges afterwards. We collaborate broadly with the private sector, innovators, civil society groups, influencers and others to achieve these aims.


  • We know children and adolescents are more at-risk during crises: When children lose access to education they lose a critical opportunity for protection. To safeguard children in this fluid situation, we encourage proposals that:
    • Prioritize MHPSS and other protection activities, i.e. addressing gender-based and domestic violence;
    • Apply the 2019 Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action and the 2010 INEE Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery.
  • We recognize the difference between innovation, technology and good solutions: Because many of our beneficiaries do not have access to internet connectivity, computers or smartphones, innovation through technology may not be feasible. Innovation alone doesn’t always represent quality in learning. Reponses may channel creative thinking on how to deliver education differently or build on/expand prior local learnings.  We consider all responses to remote learning – high tech, low tech and no tech – provided the response is relevant, feasible and reaches all affected children and youth, can be used and understood by children, teachers and parents, and that content is context and language specific (software, hardware, radio-based learning etc.).  We encourage responses that build on or utilize locally-available infrastructure and services. We require information on amount of input, time intensiveness and accessibility/reach.
  • We know good teachers are our best hope for kids to learn: Teacher well-being is paramount to building a workforce of compassionate change makers. We recognize continuity of salary and job security are essential for teachers that work in ECW-funded areas. We ensure that teacher salaries and incentives provided in our grants continue and welcome other proposals that support teachers and quality teaching during COVID.
  • Crises are a difficult, confusing and stressful time: While most children and youth are resilient, they may experience increased stress and anxiety during times of uncertainty. Existing mental health concerns may be exacerbated when lacking the structure, support and interaction with peers at school. ECW prioritizes MHPSS as part of the COVID-19 education response and, in alignment with the IASC’s MHPSS Reference Group’s messages and activities and resources and lessons learned shared by INEE and IFRC’s Psychosocial Reference Center, encourages responses that help children deal with stress during the outbreak.
  • Leaving no girl behind: To ensure girls and young women do not face additional inequity and fall further behind in their education during this pandemic, we prioritize solutions that analyze and address their specific needs and rights as part of the COVID-19 response. We encourage initiatives that prevent barriers like the burden of caregiving, inequitable distribution of learning resources and marginalization in the home, to increase access and opportunity for girls to learn and achieve equally during COVID-19.
  • A wide definition of ‘education’: It is important for responses to demonstrate how they address the wide scope of needs that children currently face. We recognize the value that education plays in ensuring broader needs are met. Responses which also achieve outcomes in nutrition, water and sanitation, health, gender equality, protection and MHPSS are encouraged and should identify how these outcomes are achieved, but also how proposals that address these issues facilitate better learning outcomes overall.
  • As simple and quick as possible: This is a crisis – not a time to fill out endless applications. While we want to ensure that all proposals meet our basic standards and set key deliverables, our objective is to make the application process as simple, quick, expedient, user-friendly and self-explanatory as possible so that those with good ideas and a way to execute locally can help educate the communities they are in. The form allows partners to make simple inputs on proposals and enables simplified reporting and quick turnaround of approvals and funding.
  • Added value and CSO/ grassroots support: We serve the often forgotten and most at risk within crisis-affected countries and prioritize partners that can support hard to reach, underserved children, girls, youth and communities in affected areas. Any new or re-programmed investments must demonstrate how they coordinate with other responders in the region and fill a clear gap to support and complement other partners’ responses to the crisis. In addition, ECW has the ability to support civil society and capacity building as well as CSO and grassroots organizations which cannot be funded by the UN’s emergency response system. Recognizing that localized information, support and response is now critical, we invite proposals from all organizations that can support local educational responses and advocacy.
  • Resilience building: Longer term outcomes to build resilience and for alternative use and impact should be included in proposals where applicable.


With needs escalating by the day, there are three very concrete ways that governments, private sector, foundations, NGOs and individuals can partner with ECW at this difficult time, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure quality education continues globally, especially in the most vulnerable countries, for the next critical months:

  1. Help us innovate and co-finance education solutions: ECW is actively working with partners in government and the private sector, especially those involved in education, ICT and entertainment, to engage in developing and financing solutions to ensure the continuity of education. We believe this is an opportunity for demonstrating solidarity between the private sector, government and innovators to invent solutions for what we hope is a temporary crisis. This would also strengthen capacity to respond to education priorities in future crises as whatever we develop and invent now becomes useful global public goods benefiting children and youth, especially those who are refugees, internally displaced, migrants or caught in armed conflicts or protracted crises. If partners would like to support this type of innovation and funding, we are also able to allocate resources from our Acceleration Facility to co-finance coordinated efforts and pilot projects.
  2. Provide funding to help us response to urgent education needs in the most vulnerable countries:  Our current grantees, including (governments, UN agencies and civil society organizations) are striving to sustain critical support functions and find new ways to respond. Overall, our initial estimates are that the needs in the 26 countries currently receiving support from ECW require additional support of at least US$35-40 million to support activities in response to COVID-19 for the following 3-4 months. This is just over US$1 million average for each country, which is the minimum we can expect they need (and, it is likely more will be needed in most countries). We encourage contributions to our ECW Multi-Donor Trust Fund from the Government or KOICA towards this amount and we ensure close communication to share the impact that we are having.
  3. If you believe you can respond to local education needs, submit a proposal: Apply to ECW via our COVID-19 First Emergency Response Application process, through the in-country humanitarian coordination forum, either the Education Cluster or the Education in Emergency Working Group in in your country/region. Alternatively, you can submit a proposal through the ECW Acceleration facility to support education in your community.

Download the ECW COVID-19 and Education in Emergencies factsheet.

For inquiries, contact  For updates, please follow: @EduCannotWait and visit:


In just a few months, COVID-19 has upended the lives of children around the world. It represents not only a threat to their health — but to their education, as schools close their doors worldwide, and to their safety, as the combined socio-economic impacts of job losses, isolation and containment measures put children at increased risk of abuse, exploitation and violence.

Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF. Photo © UNICEF/UN0154449/Nesbitt

Henrietta H. Fore became UNICEF’s seventh Executive Director on 1 January 2018. She has worked to champion economic development, education, health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in a public service, private sector and non-profit leadership career that spans more than four decades.

From 2007 to 2009, Ms. Fore served as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Director of United States Foreign Assistance. The first woman to serve in these roles, she was responsible for managing $39.5 billion of U.S. foreign assistance annually, including support to peoples and countries recovering from disaster and building their futures economically, politically and socially.

Earlier in her career at USAID, Ms. Fore was appointed Assistant Administrator for Asia and Assistant Administrator for Private Enterprise (1989-1993). She served on the Boards of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In 2009, she received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award the Secretary of State can bestow. Read full bio >>

Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, speaks with children at the Umm Battah Girls School in Kadugli, the capital city of South Kordofan State, Sudan.

ECW. Before we talk about education, can you tell us how UNICEF is responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic?

Henrietta H. Fore. In just a few months, COVID-19 has upended the lives of children around the world. It represents not only a threat to their health — but to their education, as schools close their doors worldwide, and to their safety, as the combined socio-economic impacts of job losses, isolation and containment measures put children at increased risk of abuse, exploitation and violence. In communities worldwide, you can find UNICEF staff members working around the clock to provide emergency education kits, distance learning opportunities, lifesaving information about handwashing and sanitation, and psychosocial counselling to affected children. We are also working with governments to strengthen health systems, and better manage the disease as the outbreak spreads. We are sparing no effort to give this global health emergency the attention and resources it deserves.

ECW. You have served all your life leading and championing humanitarian and development issues, not the least education. What drives you?

Henrietta H. Fore. I’m driven by the futures of children. Everywhere I travel, even in the most difficult circumstances — in conflicts and natural disasters, in communities plagued by extreme poverty or discrimination — I meet children and young people whose eyes and faces are lit with hope for the future. They tell me about their dreams and aspirations. They want to contribute to their families and economies. Even those living in the most difficult circumstances are not passive victims. They are determined to build their own futures. But they need the right tools and support. Providing quality education to every child in every context is not only a basic human right — it is essential to bringing their dreams to life and to sustaining progress and even peace for all of humanity in the future.

ECW. What is the scale of the current crisis, and how does it relate to our collective efforts to reach SDG 4?

Henrietta H. Fore. The Sustainable Development Goals’ call for “education for all” must mean exactly that — education for all. Even those children whose education is interrupted by, or non-existent because of, conflicts and natural disasters. As Education Cannot Wait reminds us, there are currently about 75 million children in urgent need of educational support across 35 crisis-affected countries. In fact, the countries furthest away from achieving SDG 4 are all crisis-affected. In other words — we will not reach this goal if we fail to reach precisely these children. In these humanitarian emergencies, children’s education suffers first, when schools are closed or destroyed, and education is interrupted. Also, they are especially vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation. We must never forget that a generation of young people is at stake — tomorrow’s leaders, tomorrow’s citizens, tomorrow’s caretakers of our world. We cannot afford to let them down — at any stage of their education, no matter what barriers we must overcome to reach them.

ECW. UNICEF oversees multiple sectors and is the lead agency on education in emergencies. Why is delivering education in emergencies so important – as important as water, nutrition, medicine and other services? Why is it important to recognize education as a lifesaving intervention at times of humanitarian crisis?

Henrietta H. Fore. A child’s right to an education does not change because of a crisis. In fact, it is just important as every other need, and can even improve outcomes in other sectors. For example, schools provide a place for children to learn more than reading and math. They also learn healthy behaviours, such as the importance of proper nutrition and hand-washing to prevent disease. Schools also create a safe and secure learning environment during times of insecurity and crisis, providing a needed sense of normalcy, continuity and safety for children that have seen and experienced often traumatic events. So education not only provides a pathway for children to build and fulfil their potential — it can have multiplier effects that can help young people stay safe and healthy.

ECW. We have recently witnessed important steps to present a consolidated UN response to the wellbeing and education of children caught in emergencies and crises. How do you see the role of UNICEF in strengthening co-ordination between relevant UN partners, civil society and private sector to ensure continuity, inclusion and real learning in complex emergencies?

Henrietta H. Fore. UNICEF is uniquely placed to bring partners together to serve children living through emergencies. We have over 790 education staff members spread across 144 countries — the single-largest global education presence of any international agency. This deep presence allows UNICEF to help countries expand access to quality education, even for the most marginalized children, such as those young refugees fleeing conflicts across borders. UNICEF is also the largest provider of education in emergencies in humanitarian response and, together with Save the Children, we are leading an IASC cluster co-ordination group on education. Together, we are working to ensure that all of our national and global partners are working as one to deliver quality education to children in emergencies.

On 3 March 2020 in the Syrian Arab Republic, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore speaks with students at Tal-Amara school in southern rural Idlib.

ECW. UNICEF hosts a number of global funds and initiatives, including the Education Cannot Wait Fund. As a member of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group, how do you see Education Cannot Wait’s contribution to advancing SDG4 in crisis situations?

Henrietta H. Fore. Initiatives like Education Cannot Wait are gathering partners around the urgent and complex needs of children facing some of the world’s worst realities. ECW’s financing efforts are particularly important, enabling partners on the ground to act quickly to fill the gap between humanitarian and development funding, while building stronger school systems for the future. This is critical, especially when we consider that only about two per cent of overall humanitarian funding is currently dedicated to education. We must work to ensure that we use ever dollar for education wisely and strategically, while at the same time turning up the volume on this education emergency to draw even more funding and resources.

ECW. A major priority is that of girls’ education, especially for girls left furthest behind in conflicts, natural disasters and forced displacement. How can we reach these girls by 2030? How can we accelerate our joint efforts during the Decade of Action?  

Henrietta H. Fore. On this issue, we cannot be complacent. Despite progress, 130 million girls are still out of school around the world. Even those who gain a primary education are still vulnerable to dropping out and being unable to continue their education beyond that level. And many girls who finish primary school are contending with poor quality education, and will not meet minimum proficiency in reading by the time they finish. This is not only an injustice — it’s a huge missed opportunity for development. Educating girls not only combats poverty, it also ensures better maternal and child health. That’s why UNICEF is bringing together partners around solutions like flexible learning for girls trapped by crises, and investments in school facilities — like separate toilets and safe learning spaces — to keep them learning. The Decade of Action depends on accelerating our progress through efforts like these, and we will not stop until every girl gets the education she needs and deserves.

ECW. As an inspirational global leader, what is your message to children and youth, many of whom you have met, who dream of an education, as they suffer the brunt of conflicts and disasters?

Henrietta H. Fore. My message to them is simple: education can never be taken from you. It is yours. It is portable. It will give purpose to your hands, hearts and dreams, wherever you may travel. Even as you face these crises and disasters, remember that millions of people are standing with you in your hour of need — donors, governments, activists, organizations like UNICEF, partnerships like Education Cannot Wait, NGOs, businesses and community leaders. Together, we are working around the clock to design, fund and deliver programmes to ensure you have the tools you need to shape your minds and your futures. We will not leave you behind.

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The United Nations today launched a US$2 billion coordinated global humanitarian response plan to fight COVID-19 in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries in a bid to protect millions of people and stop the virus from circling back around the globe.

Photo: OCHA/Iason Athanasiadis

UN issues $2 billion appeal to combat COVID-19

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25 March 2020 – The United Nations today launched a US$2 billion coordinated global humanitarian response plan to fight COVID-19 in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries in a bid to protect millions of people and stop the virus from circling back around the globe.

COVID-19 has killed more than 16,000 people worldwide and there are nearly 400,000 reported cases. It has a foothold across the globe and is now reaching countries that were already facing humanitarian crisis because of conflict, natural disasters and climate change.

The COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan will be implemented by UN agencies, with international NGOs and NGO consortiums playing a direct role in the response. It will:

  • deliver essential laboratory equipment to test for the virus, and medical supplies to treat people;
  • install handwashing stations in camps and settlements;
  • launch public information campaigns on how to protect yourself and others from the virus; and
  • establish airbridges and hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to move humanitarian workers and supplies to where they are needed most.

Speaking at the virtual launch of the response plan, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said: “To leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries to their fate would be both cruel and unwise. If we leave coronavirus to spread freely in these places, we would be placing millions at high risk, whole regions will be tipped into chaos and the virus will have the opportunity to circle back around the globe.”

Mr. Lowcock noted that countries battling the pandemic at home are rightly prioritizing people living in their own communities. “But the hard truth is they will be failing to protect their own people if they do not act now to help the poorest countries protect themselves,” he stressed.

At the launch of the response plan, the Under-Secretary-General was joined by UN Secretary-General António Guterres; Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO); and Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF.

Together, they called on UN Member States to commit to stemming the impact of COVID-19 in vulnerable countries and containing the virus globally by giving the strongest possible support to the plan, while also sustaining core support to existing humanitarian appeals that help the more than 100 million people who already rely on humanitarian assistance from the UN just to survive.

“COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity – and so the whole of humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough,” the Secretary-General said.

“We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves.  This is a matter of basic human solidarity. It is also crucial for combating the virus. This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable.”

Member States were warned that any diversion of funding from existing humanitarian operations would create an environment in which cholera, measles and meningitis can thrive, in which even more children become malnourished, and in which extremists can take control – an environment that would be the perfect breeding ground for the coronavirus.

To kick-start the response plan, Mr. Lowcock released an additional $60 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). This brings CERF’s support to humanitarian action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to $75 million. In addition, country-based pooled funds have allocated more than $3 million so far.

This new CERF allocation – one of the largest ever made – will support: the World Food Programme to ensure the continuity of supply chains and transport of aid workers and relief goods; WHO to contain the spread of the pandemic; and other agencies to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to those most affected by the pandemic, including women and girls, refugees and internally displaced people.

Support will include efforts around food security, physical and mental health, water and sanitation, nutrition and protection.


In these times of unprecedented challenges to our humanity, we are sharing with you this appeal from the Secretary-General of the United Nations for an immediate global cease-fire. We trust you will help us amplify this urgent call to help save lives and restore hope for women, men and children facing the risk of the COVID 19 pandemic while living in dire conditions in armed conflict and forced displacement situations across the globe.

In these times of unprecedented challenges to our humanity, we are sharing with you this appeal from the Secretary-General of the United Nations for an immediate global cease-fire. We trust you will help us amplify this urgent call to help save lives and restore hope for women, men and children facing the risk of the COVID 19 pandemic while living in dire conditions in armed conflict and forced displacement situations across the globe. 
Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19. 

The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.  It attacks all, relentlessly.

Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world.  

The most vulnerable — women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced — pay the highest price.

They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.

Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed.

Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted. 
Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable.
The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.
That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. 
It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.
To warring parties, I say: 
Pull back from hostilities.  
Put aside mistrust and animosity. 
Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes. 

This is crucial…
To help create corridors for life-saving aid.
To open precious windows for diplomacy. 

To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. 
Let us take inspiration from coalitions and dialogue slowly taking shape among rival parties to enable joint approaches to COVID-19.  But we need much more.
End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world.
It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now.
That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.


Le monde entier affronte aujourd’hui un ennemi commun : le COVID-19.
Le virus n’épargne aucune nationalité, communauté ou religion. Il attaque tout le monde sur son passage, implacablement.
Pendant ce temps, les conflits armés continuent de faire rage dans le monde.
Ce sont les personnes les plus vulnérables – les femmes et les enfants, les personnes en situation de handicap, les personnes marginalisées et déplacées – qui paient le tribut le plus lourd.
Ces mêmes personnes courent également le plus grand risque de subir des pertes dévastatrices à cause du COVID-19.
N’oublions pas que dans les pays ravagés par la guerre, les systèmes de santé se sont effondrés.
Les professionnels de santé, qui étaient déjà peu nombreux, ont souvent été pris pour cibles.
Les réfugiés et toutes les personnes déplacées par des conflits violents sont doublement vulnérables.
La furie avec laquelle s’abat le virus montre bien que se faire la guerre est une folie.
C’est la raison pour laquelle j’appelle aujourd’hui à un cessez-le-feu immédiat, partout dans le monde. 
L’heure est venue de laisser les conflits armés derrière nous pour concentrer nos efforts sur le véritable combat de nos vies.
A vous qui êtes en guerre, je dis :
Renoncez aux hostilités.
Laissez de côté la méfiance et l’animosité.
Posez les armes, faites taire les canons, mettez fin aux frappes aériennes.
C’est essentiel…
Pour pouvoir établir des couloirs d’aide humanitaire qui sauveront des vies.
Pour reprendre le dialogue et donner une chance à la diplomatie.
Pour ramener l’espoir dans certains des lieux les plus vulnérables face au COVID-19.
Inspirons-nous des coalitions qui prennent forme et des dialogues qui se nouent lentement entre des parties rivales pour permettre des approches conjointes face au COVID-19. Mais il faut en faire beaucoup plus.
Mettons un terme au fléau de la guerre et luttons contre la maladie qui ravage notre monde.
Cela commence par l’arrêt des combats. Partout. Tout de suite.
C’est ce dont nous tous, membres de la famille humaine, avons besoin. Aujourd’hui plus que jamais.


Photo ©UNICEF/UN0339412/Frank Dejongh

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.  Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Learn more in the six UN official languages at

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Peacekeeping missions are putting in place a series of mitigation measures to promote the safety, security and health of all UN personnel while maintaining continuity of operations.

Humanitarian Assistance

More than 100 million people already rely on support from the United Nations’ humanitarian agencies. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) top priority is to ensure that we do the best we can to keep providing life-saving help for those people, while supporting the wider system’s response to COVID-19.


The UN Children’s agency is providing the latest updatesexplainers for parents and teachers, and resources for media as new information becomes available.

Reproductive Health

UNFPA, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, has issued a statement on COVID-19 and pregnancy.


UNHCR is committed to preventing and responding to this health emergency. Their primary goal is to protect refugees, displaced people and their host communities.

Food and Agriculture

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is working closely with WHO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to assist member countries and research communities in identifying potential animal hosts of this virus and reduce spillover events to humans.


The tourism sector, like no other economic activity with social impact, is based on interaction amongst people. UNWTO has been guiding the tourism sector’s response on several levels.


The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), WHO, IATA and ACI have worked in close cooperation on the development of this single source for aviation-specific guidelines with the objective of ensuring appropriate planning and action at all levels and thus in order to mitigate the effects of a human outbreak.

Educational Disruption and Response

UNESCO is providing immediate support to countries as they work to minimize the educational disruption and facilitate the continuity of learning, especially for the most vulnerable.

UN Development Programme

UNDP is working with its partners to combat the spread of the disease and to support the most affected countries where health systems are weakest and people are at their most vulnerable.

The World Bank Group

The World Bank is providing new financing to countries on a fast-track basis, as well as policy advice and technical assistance.

The International Monetary Fund

The IMF is helping its member states with emergency financing, debt relief, new financing arrangements and capacity development.

UN Conference on Trade and Development

UNCTAD is monitoring the effects of the pandemic on manufacturing, trade, foreign direct investment and economic growth.






Earlier this year, Norwegian Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein and ECW Director Yasmine Sherif met in Geneva to discuss ECW’s results achieved and our priorities for 2020 and beyond; a great way to kick off the Decade of Action.

Earlier this year, Norwegian Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein and ECW Director Yasmine Sherif met in Geneva to discuss ECW’s results achieved and our priorities for 2020 and beyond; a great way to kick off the Decade of Action.

With a total contribution of US$80.3 million, Norway is ECW’s second largest donor, after the United Kingdom. Norway has also helped generate additional political and financial support for education in emergencies and protracted crises, not only by setting an example (Norway devotes more than 8 per cent of its humanitarian aid funding to education), but also by earnestly advocating for more support to, and engagement with, ECW from other donors and partners.

Indeed, Minister Ulstein has been a staunch supporter of ECW ever since he took office in early 2019, assuming a key role on education in emergencies and protracted crises from the day he became responsible for Norad, Norec and Norfund – and the better part of Norway’s aid portfolio.

For Norway, supporting ECW is not only about trying to reach the foundational Sustainable Development Goal, SDG4 – inclusive, quality education – and by doing so, helping to achieve all the other SDGs as well. Moreover, it is closely linked to Norway’s efforts to meet other humanitarian needs as part of a rights- and resilience-based approach. After all, schooling not only gives children and youth the skills and knowledge they need to rebuild their society once a conflict, natural disaster or crisis is over, it also offers them the crucial protection and a much-needed sense of normalcy they need to survive and cope during abnormal, chaotic and often traumatic situations.

As such, the meeting provided an excellent opportunity to discuss and agree upon ECW’s priorities for 2020 and beyond. By the end of 2019, ECW had reached nearly 2 million children and youth through the different formal and non-formal emergency education programmes it supports. Although almost half of them were girls (49%), ECW aims to further increase its investments in girls’ education to help close the gap in access to education during conflict and crisis. Similarly, ECW wants to ensure a much stronger focus on the identification of and services for children with disabilities.

Moving forward, ECW will continue to increase attention and delivery of education in emergency responses to refugee and IDP contexts. Taking the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda as a model, ECW is committed to facilitating and investing in similar multi-year resilience programmes so that refugee and other forcibly-displaced children and youth – as well as children and youth from affected host communities – have access to quality education.

The meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss how Norway can help generate even greater political and financial support for education in emergencies and protracted crises: in addition to kindly agreeing to host the next meeting of ECW’s Executive Committee in Oslo, Minister Ulstein welcomed the idea of jointly organizing a symposium in Geneva later this year with other strategic partners. Moreover, Minister Ulstein and Ms Sherif discussed the possibility of organising a dedicated EiEPC (Education in Emergencies & Protracted Crises) event in the context of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2020.

Photo Gallery
Education Cannot Wait Director, Yasmine Sherif and Norway International Development Minister, Dag Inge Ulstein, mission to Mali.



Education Cannot Wait interviews Birgitte Lange, CEO Save the Children Norway and Civil Society Organization Representative to the ECW High-Level Steering Group

Colombian and Venezuelan children involved in play-based learning with their teacher. Birgitte Lange recently visited the Colombia-Venezuela border to see first hand the impact of ECW’s investment being implemented by Save the Children. Photo: Kristoffer Moene Rød /Save the Children

Education Cannot Wait interviews Birgitte Lange, CEO Save the Children Norway and Civil Society Organization Representative to the ECW High-Level Steering Group

Birgitte Lange is a leading champion in the global movement to ensure children and youth living in protracted crises and emergencies have access to the safety, hope, opportunity and protection of a quality education. The CEO of Save the Children Norway, and Civil Society Organization Representative for Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) High-Level Steering Group, recently took part in a mission to the Colombia-Venezuela border to see first-hand the impact of ECW’s investments and partnerships. In this Q&A, Lange explores new ways to partner with civil society to push the movement forward and achieve the commitments from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.

ECW. Our Director Yasmine Sherif always says, “we are all ECW,” that we are working together towards the common goal of improving education for children affected by crisis. What do you think are the biggest challenges we face as a community and what is civil society’s unique role in taking on these challenges?

Birgitte Lange. Our major challenge is that 75 million children are deprived of their right to education as a result of crises and conflict. Even amongst these vulnerable children, some are more marginalized than others. Many factors, such as gender, social and economic status, disabilities and ethnic background affect a child’s opportunity to access quality education in a crisis.

Against the scale of this challenge, education remains significantly underfunded in emergencies.  Although we have seen improvements over the last years – including the establishment and funding of ECW – we are far behind what is needed. Adding to this, a lack of efficient coordination may delay operations and increase costs.

While states are responsible for upholding human rights, they are sometimes unable, or even unwilling, to provide safe, inclusive quality education to certain groups or in some geographical areas. In such cases, civil society often play a strong role in protecting rights and providing support for those in most need. Working with local communities, civil society is often able to bring left-behind children into school, or to work with local and national governments to promote inclusive and quality learning. Moreover, humanitarian organizations work based on the humanitarian principles and may often be the neutral force needed to facilitate access to education for diverse groups of children.

Civil society is also a strong advocacy and campaigning force for increased funding, and our operational experience working with communities, governments and agencies to deliver education in emergencies is valuable when making efforts to improve coordination and efficiency.

One example is the Education Consortium in Uganda, hosted by Save the Children, with 17 partners in the first year of implementation. This was the first ECW Multi-Year Resilience Programme (MYRP) to be designed and implemented and a radical shift from disjointed and short-term humanitarian responses towards more harmonized implementation. Through a joint civil society programme, the Consortium has effectively improved quality, technical harmonization and coordination, aligning with the Education in Emergencies Working Group. The ECW programme is one of the major contributing factors to an increase in the primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children from 53 to 72 per cent.

On the visit, Lange met with children at a temporary learning centre in Maicao settlement, Colombia. The centre is supported through the ECW-financed multi-country response to the Venezuela regional crisis through Save the Children. Photo: Layla Maghribi / Save the Children

ECW. You were recently at the border between Venezuela and Colombia to see the response to the ongoing migration and refugee crisis. What were your main takeaways from the trip? What left you feeling hopeful about the work we are doing and the role of education?

Birgitte Lange. I was very impressed by the ECW-funded education response I saw at the border. There is an enormous need for access to quality education for migrant and refugee children from Venezuela, but also for children from the host communities. Adding to the complexity of the large and sudden increase in the number of children in the community, many of the refugees lack formal documentation, and children come from different ethnic groups with different cultures and languages.

I feel proud of the joint efforts of civil society and the Colombian government to secure children’s right to education at the border. I was excited to see CSO efforts to ensure bilingual education for children from ethnic minorities. I also got to visit a class where children were involved in meditation and mindfulness exercises. It made a deep impression on me to see these children learn techniques that can help them find a moment of peace in otherwise challenging living conditions. I also want to recognize how the Colombian authorities are welcoming Venezuelan children into their school system. I was left with the impression that the spirit and operational approach in this response is to draw on each other’s strengths and join forces to solve problems and improve the reach and quality of education. Whilst challenges remain, we have a lot to learn from the collective efforts of ECW, civil society and the Colombian government to provide safe, inclusive quality education at the border between Colombia and Venezuela.

ECW. As the representative of civil society organizations, what motivates you to be part of the ECW High-Level Steering Group? What do you hope to achieve?

Birgitte Lange. When we talk with children and parents in some of the toughest places on earth, their answers are clear, unambiguous – and surprising: Even when food is scarce, water is dirty and medical care non-existent, children tell us they want one thing above all else: the chance to go to school. This is an important driver for me.  We must listen to children and be accountable to delivering upon their needs and rights.

I am convinced that ECW is a crucial channel to provide funding for education in emergencies. At the High-Level Steering Group, I have the privilege to show-case the work that civil society undertakes across the world, every day, to ensure children affected by conflict and crises access education. On behalf of civil society, I have the opportunity to take part in shaping ECW’s strategy and priorities so that together we can deliver better education to more children.

What I would really like to see is that it becomes obvious for all humanitarian actors that education needs to be part of a rapid humanitarian response, and that education will receive the financial and human resources to fulfill every last child’s right to an education.

For ECW specifically, right now I find it important that we meet our shared commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 particularly in connection with enabling rapid responses that meet the needs of children through national organizations. We need to adopt ways to ensure more national organizations are clearly involved in decision making and can access ECW funding in the most streamlined and direct way possible. I would also like to see ECW create a stronger feedback and learning mechanism to ensure that good practices and learning are systematically captured, transparently shared or applied by ECW and partners.

ECW. What are civil society’s main priorities for education in emergencies throughout 2020?

Birgitte Lange. One priority globally, is to follow up on commitments ECW made at the Global Refugee Forum at the end of last year. Save the Children played a central role in facilitating the joint pledge from ECW, the Global Partnership for Education and the World Bank, and feel a responsibility to follow up on its delivery.

Civil society will also play our watch dog role when it comes to other commitments, such as donor commitments to the ECW, and we will support ECW in its ongoing resource mobilization. Moreover, we will push for ECW to meet its commitment to spend 10 per cent of its funding on early childhood education, as we know that early care and development lays the foundation for learning in later years.

We will continue to learn from both the successes and challenges of delivering education in emergencies and continue to strive to ensure that tax-payer money is spent wisely to meet our collective goals of delivering quality education to all children and youth in emergencies.

ECW. Why is it so important that we recognise education as a vital intervention at times of humanitarian crisis?

Birgitte Lange. Education is a human right that needs to be fulfilled, no matter where a child lives or under which circumstances. Also, when we ask children themselves, children of all ages tell us that they see education as the key to their safety, their health, their happiness and their future.

Education provides protection in crises. Being in school or a temporary learning center can provide physical protection from armed conflict and possible abuse happening outside the learning site. Going to school can prevent children – typically boys – from being recruited to armed forces, and it can prevent children – typically girls – from being married early or under-age. Quality education also provides psycho-social protection and social-emotional support through activities at the learning site, and by providing a sense of normality in a perhaps otherwise chaotic situation where the regular rhythm of everyday life is disturbed. It strengthens well- being and children’s resilience to cope with the challenging environment. Children also tell us that being able to continue learning gives them hope for the future.

About Birgitte Lange

Birgitte Lange is the CEO of Save the Children Norway. She plays a leading role in Save the Children’s global work for education and child rights.

Birgitte Lange has a background in political science with a Master’s degree in comparative politics. She has held several senior management positions including as Deputy Director General for the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration and Director General of the Ministry of Culture. She has worked in the field of child welfare for several years, both at ministerial level and in another NGO.

Birgitte Lange is the author of several books and is a columnist on management issues in the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv.