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

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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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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


Photo © UNESCO
Photo © UNESCO


When Peru suffered unprecedented damage from floods and mudslides induced by the El Niño phenomenon in 2017, Education Cannot Wait sprang into action to fund a rapid response to restore educational services for affected children.

In all, 162 people died in the disaster and over 66,000 homes were destroyed, leaving a quarter of a million men, women and children homeless. The Piura Region in Northern Peru was especially hard hit. Around 100,000 people were made homeless, and the education of an estimated 37,000 children was interrupted as their classrooms were destroyed.

Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crisis, allocated a fast-acting US$250,000 grant to UNESCO that was implemented in coordination and close collaboration with the Government of Peru, UNICEF and other frontline agencies to build new schools and get children back in the classroom.

The grant helped build prefabricated classrooms in nine schools. In addition, gender-segregated bathrooms were built to ensure a better protection for girls in the precarious environments that often follow natural disasters of this magnitude.

Beyond this immediate response to restore infrastructures, Education Cannot Wait also supported efforts to “build back better.” This meant helping to develop the response plans necessary to insulate children from future risks.

This was done through 27 workshops organized to map community risks, especially around schools, create family emergency plans, and build improved disaster and risk management plans, strategies and frameworks.

The family emergency plans helped households to identify better housing materials, reduce risks, identify hazards, and protect children when disaster strikes.

With the new school facilities in place, some 590 students were able to return to school, including 288 girls. The project closed in September 2018 but has had a lasting impact.

“This isn’t just about building infrastructure, but also about building happy spaces,” said UNESCO Representative Magaly Robalino.



Climate change is affecting educational outcomes the world over – and putting children at ever greater risk.

Rising seas, more extreme weather, drought, floods and rising temperatures push resources, economies and livelihoods to the edge. Farmers in poor countries are seeing decreasing yields and are struggling to adapt. Nations are seeing vast economic impacts that are syphoning off resources. And families are struggling to find the resources they need to send children to school, feed children healthy meals, and save money for the future.

With more frequent and severe risks from sea-level rise, stronger and more intense hurricanes and other natural disasters, the world’s most vulnerable children face ever-increasing risks. This will make it harder to reach global goals of achieving universal and equitable education by 2030 as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

The economic returns for investing in education in emergencies are significant. For each dollar invested in education, more than US$5 is returned in additional gross earnings in low-income countries and US$2.50 in lower middle-income countries.

In the same way, investments in disaster risk reduction also have similar benefits, with recent World Bank reports indicated that risks from climate change, of which natural disasters are a core component, could cost up to 20 per cent of GDP.

Education Cannot Wait’s modalities, designed to link emergency relief and development efforts are well placed to support disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness from the onset of responses through to recovery.

In the end, the goal is not just to get children back in school, but to also insulate these communities from future shocks to build a brighter future for generations to come.


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