ECW announces an additional US$1.5 million grant to accelerate the impact of the Fund’s US$27.2 million multi-year education in emergency response for refugee, migrant and host-community children and youth in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru 

ECW announces an additional US$1.5 million grant to accelerate the impact of the Fund’s US$27.2 million multi-year education in emergency response for refugee, migrant and host-community children and youth in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru 


1 April 2021, New York – In response to the Western Hemisphere’s largest humanitarian crisis, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today a US$1.5 million regional grant to advance resource mobilization, policy support, data collection and advocacy to accelerate the impact of the Fund’s multi-year investments in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

The new allocation builds on ECW’s US$27.2 million in catalytic grants announced in December 2020. The funding supports multi-year resilience programmes in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru that aim to ensure continued access to inclusive and equitable quality education for over 350,000 vulnerable children and youth.

“We commend Colombia’s recently announced offer of temporary protection to Venezuelans, and hope that the grant from Education Cannot Wait will help implement this remarkable step forward and encourage other countries in the region to follow suit. Financing education for refugees is a moral and political imperative for all world leaders in the 21st Century,” stressed Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group.

With the issuance of the new grant, Education Cannot Wait’s Director Yasmine Sherif called on donors and the private sector to mobilize an additional US$116 million to support the Fund’s education in emergency responses for refugee children and youth in host communities impacted by the Venezuela Regional Crisis.

“Global leaders must step up to address this pressing humanitarian crisis. Over 5.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela have fled their country due to violence and insecurity. Girls and boys in this group are at risk of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, discrimination, hunger and malnutrition, and restricted access to schooling. If we don’t act now, many will never return to the safety and opportunity that an education provides,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises.

The escalating crisis in Venezuela has triggered the largest forced displacement in South America’s history. Globally, only the Syrian exodus is larger. Since 2015, a significant number of Venezuelans have fled into Colombia (2.4 million), Ecuador (1.5 million) and Peru (830,000).

As the situation in Venezuela continues to escalate, it is likely that Venezuelans seeking refuge in neighboring countries and beyond will not be able to return home safely any time soon. Many refugee and migrant children and youth lack documentation or official status, and oftentimes lack access to basic services, including health services, education and social services.

The COVID-19 crisis makes matters even worse. In Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, 28 million learners have been affected by school closures.

While ministries of education are making efforts to expand remote learning options and expand educational programmes to absorb the influx of refugees into local schools, refugee children are often left behind. Without access to the internet, computers and smartphones, these children are being cut off from distance learning opportunities.

New funding accelerates Venezuela regional crisis response

The new US$1.5 million ECW Acceleration Facility Grant supports regional public goods and a cross-border vision aimed at increasing access to quality, inclusive education for refugee, displaced and host community children and youth impacted by the crisis.

The initiative will accelerate the impact of ECW’s country-level multi-year resilience programmes by strengthening education management information systems to integrate migrants and refugees, providing a platform for sharing lessons and good practices across the region, advocating and mobilizing additional resources at the regional and global level, and promoting dialogue for the development of positive education in emergency policies that ensure access and quality education in national systems.

Progress is already underway. With support from ECW, the Governments of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are taking extraordinary measures to ensure refugee and displaced children have access to education.

Through ECW’s investments, children are provided with safe learning environments, improved access to remote learning and technologies that bridge the digital divide, and psychosocial services to help children deal with the trauma of being forcibly driven from their homes.

Built in coordination with governments, civil society, UN organizations and other key partners, ECW’s multi-year investments in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru align with existing educational, humanitarian and national development plans. The investments address both the immediate humanitarian needs and system-strengthening, enhancing the coherence between humanitarian and development interventions in the education sector.


These multi-year education in emergency and protracted crisis responses will reach over 350,000 refugee, migrant and host-community children and youth to ensure continued access to inclusive and equitable quality education

These multi-year education in emergency and protracted crisis responses will reach over 350,000 refugee, migrant and host-community children and youth to ensure continued access to inclusive and equitable quality education

Disponible en español

3 December 2020, New York – In response to the ongoing situation forcing Venezuelans from their homes, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today US$27.2 million in catalytic investment grants for multi-year resilience programmes in  Colombia, Ecuador and Peru; these countries are receiving large numbers of children and their families fleeing violence and instability in Venezuela. The three-year education multi-year resilience programmes will reach over 350,000 Venezuelan and host-community children and youth.

“The dire situation in Venezuela has tragically forced approximately 5 million refugees and migrants, as of March 2020, outside their country of origin, and millions of girls and boys out of their schools, to seek safety in other countries in the region. These children and youth can now continue their education in their host communities, and this provides them with protection and hope in their future. This is precisely what they need now. Their education cannot wait until this protracted crisis is over. We need collective action and urgently call on public and private-sector donors to fully fund Education Cannot Wait’s comprehensive joint education programme for refugees and others forcibly displaced, as well as their host-communities in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “These multi-year investments deliver humanitarian-development coherence in the education sector, addressing both the immediate humanitarian needs and system-strengthening. Together we can make a difference now, while also paving the way for the future.”

Today’s investment builds on results delivered through ECW’s US$7 million first emergency response in 2019 to address the region’s largest exodus in recent history.


The number of Venezuelans who have fled into Colombia has grown exponentially, from 40,000 in 2015 to 2.4 million by the end of 2020, making this protracted humanitarian crisis the largest in the Western Hemisphere and among the largest globally. Another 2 million Venezuelans go back and forth across the border on a regular basis to access basic services, including education.

This mass movement puts already vulnerable children and youth at increased risk. Girls – adolescent girls in particular – are at risk of sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, abuse and early marriage and pregnancy. Boys face the risk of being forcibly recruited into criminal gangs and other armed groups.

Colombia allows all Venezuelan children and youth to enroll in its national education system regardless of their immigration status. The number of Venezuelan children and youth enrolled in Colombia’s formal education system has increased ten-fold over the last two years, from 34,000 in 2018 to 334,000 in 2020. Nevertheless, COVID-19, insufficient absorption capacity at schools, severe financial constraints, lack of teaching and learning materials, and discrimination and xenophobia are keeping many out of school.

The Colombia multi-year resilience programme benefits from US$12.4 million in catalytic grant financing from ECW, to be implemented by Save the Children ($10.7 million) and UNICEF ($1.7 million), together with the Norwegian Refugee Council, World Vision, Plan International and national NGOs, including national education secretariats to ensure as many children as possible are provided education.

The initial programme will run for three years, with the goal of leveraging an additional US$70.5 million in co-financing from national and global partners, the private sector and philanthropic foundations. The programme will reach at least 30,000 children through early childhood education, 90,000 children through primary education, and 30,000 children through secondary education.

The ground-breaking multi-year program bridges immediate humanitarian needs and longer-term development efforts strengthening the humanitarian-development nexus approach and targets 11 priority departments across the north and the north-east of the country, where over 80 per cent of Venezuelan children and youth are enrolled.


Since 2015, about 1.5 million Venezuelans have fled to Ecuador. While many travelled onward to Peru and to other countries, some 380,000 people remain. Drastic budget cuts and an escalating social and economic crisis in the country are reducing the nation’s capacity to deliver basic human services, such as education and healthcare.

Recent data from the World Bank indicates that more than 30 per cent of Venezuelans who have sought safety suffer from chronic malnutrition. Most of them lack access to education, health, housing and livelihoods, and many have been victims of sexual and gender-based violence, including human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Despite these challenges, the number of Venezuelan children and youth enrolled in Ecuador’s formal education system has more than quadrupled over the last two years, from 10,730 in 2018 to 47,319 in 2020. Nevertheless, approximately 35,000 Venezuelan children and youth living in Ecuador remain out of school.

Education Cannot Wait is allocating an initial catalytic grant of US$7.4 million in Ecuador, to be implemented by UNESCO in collaboration with UN and Civil Society Organizations, and calls on public and private sector donors to help fully fund the remaining US$32 million gap for the education-in-emergency response. Fully funded, the programme will reach 105,000 children and youth, including 64,000 girls and adolescent girls, and 10,000 children with disabilities.


According to the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela, there are an estimated 830,000 Venezuelans who have escaped to Peru. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated quarantine measures in Peru have taken a severe toll, particularly on Venezuelan children, adolescents and their families. Children and youth are now dealing with multiplying risks including hunger, poverty, an increase in mental health problems and gender-based violence. There are notable spikes in the number of missing girls, abuse, and unintended and early pregnancies.

The Government of Peru is making important strides to include forcibly displaced Venezuelan children and youth into the nation’s education system. Ministry of Education data indicates that a total of 96,613 Venezuelan migrant and refugee students (52,319 girls and 44,294 boys) are enrolled in Peruvian schools (2020), a number which has steadily increased over recent years. Despite these efforts, there are 67,957 refugee and migrant children (33,234 girls and 34,723 boys) who are not registered in the Ministry of Education’s system.

Education Cannot Wait is allocating an initial catalytic grant of US$7.4 million in Peru, to be implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with UN and Civil Society Organizations. With the US$7.4 million in catalytic grant funding from ECW, the three-year multi-year resilience programme in Peru calls on donors and the private sector to help fully fund the remaining US$14 million gap for the education-in-emergency response.

Once fully funded, the programme will reach 100,000 children and youth – particularly Venezuelan girls and boys – and improve the inclusivity and quality of the Peruvian education system. The ECW seed grant responds to the pressing needs of 30,000 children and adolescents.


About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):
ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings around the world. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. The Fund is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations, while operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure.

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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.


On 25 April 2019 in Cucuta, Colombia, Venezuelan children wait in the queue at the migration center. There remains a US$50 million funding gap for the educational response in the countries supported through these grants, according to in-country partners. © UNICEF/ Arcos


4 June 2019, New York – In a coordinated response to the Venezuela regional crisis, Education Cannot Wait announced today a US$7 million allocation to support first emergency response grants in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

The grants will focus primarily on out-of-school children and adolescents from Venezuela and host-communities to get them back in protective, quality learning environments. In all, some 84,500 children and youth, including 42,600 girls, will benefit from the fast-acting investment.

“Children and youth who are uprooted and forced to flee are haunted by fears and uncertainty. They do not lose their right to education because they are on the move, but they will lose their hope and opportunities without education. Education provides a sense of stability, protection and hope to turn around their lives and positively impact the region. The ECW catalytic investment will, however, require additional funding for education that matches the immense need and hospitality shown by host-countries in the region,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, a global fund for education in emergencies hosted by UNICEF that seeks to mobilize US$1.8 billion by 2021 to reach close to 9 million children living in crisis.

The Venezuela crisis has displaced 3.7 million people, with an estimated 1.2 million children and youth affected in the four countries that will benefit from the grant. On average 50 per cent of the refugee and migrant children from Venezuela are not enrolled in formal schooling across the four countries.

While schools in these countries are generally well-resourced, the influx of children is pushing local coping mechanisms and resources to their breaking points. In this volatile and complex context, children – especially girls – are at greater risk of gender-based violence, child labor, sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

The Education Cannot Wait allocation aligns with the regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan led by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), for which there is a US$50 million funding gap for the educational response in these countries, according to in-country partners.

Education Cannot Wait’s allocation accounts for 14 per cent of this total funding gap and adds to the US$4.6 million already committed by other donors to respond to educational needs.

The funds will help sustain, rehabilitate and establish temporary learning spaces, facilitate access to formal education, support local education authorities in absorbing new students, create community-based back-to-learning campaigns, promote gender-equality and inclusion, and provide learning and teaching materials. Teachers and education professionals will also be trained to provide support to children living in such a volatile context.

On a regional level, the funds will improve coordination and cross-country collaboration and the monitoring of activities across the four countries. It will also strengthen the availability of data to facilitate policy dialogue to ensure the inclusion of children in national education systems.

The funding from Education Cannot Wait will be implemented by a wide range of international and national partners. It will be managed through four main grantees at the country level: in Brazil by UNICEF (US$749,000), in Colombia by Save the Children (US$2.6 million), in Ecuador by UNICEF (US$1.9 million), and in Peru by Refugee Education Trust (US$1.2 million). In addition, UNICEF will manage the US$376,000 allocation for regional support.

On 25 April 2019 in Cucuta, Colombia, Venezuelan children play at the UNICEF-supported Child Friendly Space. © UNICEF/ Arcos