- UNICEF has warned that school closures could harm children's learning and mental and physical well-being, as they lose their support system and school meals.
- UNICEF urged governments to avoid closures across the country and to prioritize reopening schools while making them as safe as possible.
- UNICEF launched an appeal for $2.5 billion to provide emergency, life-saving assistance to about 39 million children in the Middle East and North Africa during 2021.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announces that the number of children who have been unable to go to classes has risen again, and warns that school closures are the wrong response to the Coronavirus pandemic. UNICEF said that nearly one in five students worldwide were unable to go to school at the beginning of this month.
UNICEF said that this figure— 320 million students worldwide— is an increase of about 90 million from last November, citing data compiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
UNICEF has warned that school closures could harm children’s learning and mental and physical well-being, as they lose their support system and school meals.
The UN agency said that very large numbers of schools close their doors unnecessarily, despite the lack of evidence that they contribute to high rates of transmission of the Coronavirus.
“What we have learned about schooling during the time of COVID is clear: the benefits of keeping schools open, far outweigh the costs of closing them, and nationwide closures of schools should be avoided at all costs,” Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Global Chief of Education, said in a statement.
He urged governments to avoid closures across the country and to prioritize reopening schools while making them as safe as possible. Jenkins said:
“Evidence shows that schools are not the main drivers of this pandemic. Yet, we are seeing an alarming trend whereby governments are once again closing down schools as a first recourse rather than a last resort. In some cases, this is being done nationwide, rather than community by community, and children are continuing to suffer the devastating impacts on their learning, mental and physical well-being and safety.”
Mr. Jenkins added, “in spite of everything we have learned about COVID-19, the role of schools in community transmission, and the steps we can take to keep children safe at school, we are moving in the wrong direction – and doing so very quickly.”
Appeal to Support the Children of the Middle East
On the other hand, UNICEF launched an appeal for $2.5 billion to provide emergency, life-saving assistance to about 39 million children in the Middle East and North Africa during 2021.
This appeal aims to deliver the necessary humanitarian aid to children and to continue responding to the enormous needs arising from the Coronavirus pandemic. The response to the crises in Yemen, Syria, and Sudan is the largest share in this appeal.
The statement said that in Syria, 4.8 million children need help, after ten years of war, which is one of the longest and brutal wars in recent times. An additional 2.5 million Syrian refugee children live in neighboring countries.
In Yemen, 12 million children need assistance, which is, roughly, all of them. In Sudan, 3.5 million children face many challenges, including due to floods believed to be the most severe in a century, political transition, and economic crisis.
UNICEF referred to other crises that swept the Arab region over the past year. In Lebanon, an economic meltdown, accompanied by an increase in coronavirus cases, and a terrible explosion in the Beirut port in August, left nearly 1.9 million children dependent on aid.
The United Nations agency for children confirmed that the bulk of the funds requested in the UNICEF appeal will be directed to support children’s education, followed by the provision of water, sanitation, health, nutrition, and psychosocial support to address mental health.