Why Education is as Important as Shelter, Food, and Water in Emergencies

Children play at Save the Children’s “Rainbow Kindergarten” at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. It was the first pre-school at the camp, launched in December 2012. Each week, the pre-school is accessible to more than 1,000 Syrian children between the ages of three and five. (Photo: Hannah Maule-Ffinch/Save the Children)

Improving Access to Education in Emergencies

When thousands of people from government, civil society, affected communities, academia and the private sector gathered in Istanbul, Turkey recently for the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit, a pivotal moment for education in emergencies took place.


“A pivotal moment for education in emergencies took place.”


 A new fund to better coordinate and deliver education in emergencies was launched, called “Education Cannot Wait.”

“Education is typically at the periphery of emergency response efforts,” says Gemma Terry a Community Manager for Social Innovation at Pearson.

“Normally, education receives around 2-percent of humanitarian aid,” she says. “Shelter, food, and water are always at the top—for good reason.”

“Now, more people are starting to see the importance of education in these conflict situations,” Gemma says.

A Lasting Impact

Over 450 million children live in a country affected by conflict, according to recent figures from UNICEF.

That’s nearly a quarter of the world’s school age children.

From that number, 75 million children—aged between 3 to 18 years old—are in desperate need of educational support.

The new education crisis fund Education Cannot Wait has already raised more than 80 million dollars from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands, the European Commission, and others.

UN education envoy Gordon Brown told reporters when the fund was announced:

“This is a lost generation we must help urgently. We live in a world where refugee needs are not temporary, with many spending more than a decade out of country. … For too long we have neglected the education of young people in conflict zones, at the cost of making youth the recruits for terrorist groups and their parents the most likely to leave and seek a better future for their children in Europe or America.”

“If children who have to leave their homes because of conflict are able to receive an education,” Gemma Terry says, “the hope is that they’re better equipped with the knowledge and skills to go back and rebuild their country.”

“Finally, people are seeing how important education is in conflict zones,” she says. “Finally, it’s a priority.”


Pearson is partnering with Save the Children for the ‘Every Child Learning’ partnership to increase educational opportunities for Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and innovate new solutions to help improve the delivery of education in emergency and conflict-affected settings.  As part of this partnership, Pearson and Save the Children worked together on advocacy activities at the World Humanitarian Summit to raise awareness of the urgency around improving education for children affected by conflict. LearnED wrote about this partnership in an earlier story, “Improving Learning for the Children of Syrian Refugees.”