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Published in Print: April 18, 2007, as Less Education Aid Sent to War Zones

Less Education Aid Sent to War Zones

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More than half the world’s 77 million primary-school-age children who are not attending school live in conflict-ridden countries, but those countries receive only one-fifth the world’s education aid, according to a report by the Westport, Conn.-based Save the Children.

In “Last in Line, Last in School,” authors from the nonprofit organization contend that if donor countries were serious about the pledges they’ve made to ensure that all those children are attending school by 2015, they would provide more education aid to war-torn countries.

The report, released as officials from around the world convened in Washington for the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, says donors do give a sizable amount of aid to conflict-ridden or low-income countries, but only a small portion of that goes to education. The report explains that countries tend not to consider education as part of humanitarian aid or an emergency response to conflict.

Carol Bellamy, the president and chief executive officer of the Brattleboro, Vt.-based World Learning Inc., who for 10 years was the executive director of UNICEF, said the Save the Children report’s premise is correct.

“It’s just a straight-out fact that education hasn’t been on the agenda or is very low on the agenda for donors that provide humanitarian aid, even though it saves lives,” she said. “The perception is that an emergency health intervention, like getting clean water to people or immunizing people, keeps them alive. In some ways, education keeps a child alive; it pulls the child back from the brink of total social disorganization.”

She added, however, that she’s seen a slight shift in donors’ thinking in recent years. For example, she said, in 2002, after the U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan, countries worked hard to help Afghan children return to school.

U.S. Among Bigger Donors

The report cites statistics from 2005 showing that Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey are the largest recipients of education aid from the United States. Forty percent of U.S. education aid goes to countries affected by conflict, a much higher share than most donors give to such countries.

But in June 2006, the U.S. Agency for International Development discontinued funding for improving Iraq’s schools. ("U.S. Withdraws From Education Reform in Iraq," Aug. 30, 2006.)

Ms. Bellamy surmised that the USAID pulled out of school reform there because “other than just literally writing a check for the Iraq Ministry of Education,” there was no good way to monitor how the money was used, given the lack of security in that country.

The USAID has provided a small amount of funding for an adviser to the Education Ministry as part of a follow-up contract to support various Iraq ministries.

Vol. 26, Issue 33, Page 11

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