Monday, April 15, 2024
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Disasters take toll on Burma’s schools

From earthquakes in Nepal to flooding in Burma, disasters damage or destroy thousands of schools, leaving hundreds of thousands of children unable to go to class, yet education is often overlooked in humanitarian responses, according to Save the Children.

Deadly earthquakes in Nepal last year damaged or destroyed more than 8,200 schools, leaving 870,000 children without classrooms.

Nearly a year on, many children were still taking lessons in makeshift facilities without walls, exposed to cold winter weather, Save the Children said in a report on lost education due to disasters in the Asia Pacific.

Part of the problem is that less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid is earmarked for education, leading to delays in the reconstruction and repair of damaged schools, the global aid agency said.

“Regardless of the size of the disaster — it doesn’t matter if it’s small or big — education is disrupted, and students’ lives are impacted,” said Sarah Ireland, the author of the report, by telephone from Melbourne.

The report, to be launched on Tuesday, details the impact on schoolchildren of five disasters in 2015, including flooding in Burma that put 4,100 schools out of action, leaving 250,000 children in limbo for several months.

“Education needs to be prioritised as part of a holistic response,” said Ireland, the humanitarian advocacy and policy adviser for Save the Children.

“If education is supported before, during, and after disasters, it can save lives, protect children and benefit whole communities and countries.”

For example, many children attend schools that are not built to withstand the impact of natural disasters, Ireland said.

“If you consider how much time a child spends in schools, if a disaster hits, like an earthquake or a flood, that school is likely to cause injury or loss of life,” she said. “We need to ensure the school is a safe place for children to go.”

Schools — that are still standing — often play an important role in the humanitarian response to a disaster, serving as a community hub where disaster-hit families can access healthcare, clean water and food in safety.


“If children are in a school … their parents can actually go about their business rebuilding their lives, knowing their children are in a safe place and that their children will be less vulnerable to trafficking, abuse or exploitation,” Ireland said.

Save the Children’s “Education Disrupted” report is due to be launched in Bangkok on the sidelines of a United Nations conference on disaster risk reduction.

Ireland said the report aims to provide information that will help improve future data collection and thereby improve post-disaster support and response.


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