Time to Act
2014 Interim Report
As the recent statistics below show, more than 3.2 million Syrians have so far fled their country to neighboring countries. Over 50% of them are children and young people under the age of 18. For the vast majority of them, education has been seriously interrupted or even come to a complete standstill.
As their time in displacement prolongs, the lack of access to education for the majority of school-aged Syrian children presents a significant challenge to them, their families and their country, making the future of all of them even more uncertain.
To address this immense challenge the UNHCR Time to Act Appeal (TTA) was launched in 2014 calling on leading philanthropists and concerned private individuals to join efforts with public donors and help to provide Syrian refugee children with access to education to avert the specter of a ‘lost generation’.
Thanks to the joint contributions and inspirational support of TTA’s donors, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has been able to achieve a number of important goals enabling Syrian refugee children not only to go to school, but also to maximize the impact of the classroom education they receive and mitigate the negative consequences of the Syrian crisis on their future.
In the following report we have collected some of the ongoing activities implemented with TTA contributions in 2014 and some of the achieved goals. It also features stories from the field of affected refugee children.
The 2014 final report will be available in June 2015
In 2014, a group of prominent leading philanthropists from Sweden, the United States, the Arab World and Monaco in addition to private-sector donors from around the world have contributed to TTA, organized fundraising events and assisted UNHCR’s efforts to protect Syrian refugee children. A dedicated webpage for TTA’s lead donors has been created on timetoact.unhcr.org/lead-donors.
Thanks to the inspirational support of TTA’s lead donors and supporters, the appeal has contributed to activities helping more than 593,465 Syrian refugee children in 2014. More activities are to be implemented as TTA continues through 2015.
In 2014, Time to Act contributed to activities helping more than 593,465 Syrian refugee children.
In 2014 the Time to Act Appeal contributed to:
|Make psychosocial support available to children||1,837 children received psychological support and 492 professionals were trained||8,269 children supported and/or assessed||N/A||1,860 children & 746 families supported|
|Provide financial support for Education||N/A||47,000 children received education grants and 872 families received cash assistance||80 schools were supported with teaching tools||31,000 children received education grants|
|Provide primary health care||80,188 children received primary health services and 14,660 received life-saving referrals||282,000 children vaccinated against polio and 2,163 received medical examination||10 prefab clinics were set-up||11,960 children vaccinated against polio|
|Offer alternatives to “going back”||13 community and recreational facilities setup||24,000 refugees participated in recreational activities||1,200 children received direct support and recreational activities||1,300 children participated in recreational activities|
|Promote birth registration||5,500 parents received advice and support on child birth registration||1,000 children were registered in Zaa’tari camp||N/A||N/A|
|Deliver education||81,028 children were provided with primary and remedial education||4,000 refugees benefited from various school rehabilitation and education projects||N/A||N/A|
Addressing the Barriers to Education
The Time to Act appeal breaks through the most persistent barriers preventing Syrian children from going to school. UNHCR is uniquely positioned to identify and reach refugee children who have had their lives uprooted by the conflict. Here are some examples of what we were able to achieve with your help in 2014.
Fears and Nightmares
Helping children to focus on learning again
Many Syrian refugee children are in need of psychosocial support due to their exposure to violence and other traumatic events. Their young minds are pre-occupied and often overwhelmed by what they had to witness, of which nightmares are an all too common indication. In order for these children to find the ability to focus on something else again and engage with teachers and other children in a learning context, they need additional support. This could be as simple as having someone impartial to talk to, but what is often needed is professional help through a psychosocial support program tailored to help children who have experienced trauma.
TTA has helped to make this support available to children
In Jordan, UNHCR has worked closely with the Institute for Family Health and the Noor Al Hussein Foundation to provide psychosocial support services, including specialized counselling to children suffering from acute distress. As a result, 6,177 Syrian refugees received psychosocial support from January to June 2014. These services are provided on an individual basis, and continued for as long as the person needs the support. UNHCR also conducted 2,092 Best Interest Assessments for refugee children – a process that assesses the situation of the child to make sure the right protection and care steps are taken.
In Lebanon, where refugees live in over 1,700 different locations, reaching out to refugee children is a challenge. In 2014, TTA’s funds contributed to our ability to reach and identify children who are most vulnerable and in need of psychosocial support and to perform other groundwork tasks. UNHCR has been able to identify and assist 1,837 vulnerable children in Lebanon in 2014 so far. We have also trained 492 persons working with refugee children, making sure that the best possible help is available.
In Egypt, together with our partners, we have so far provided psychosocial support to 1,860 children and 746 families, as of 30 June 2014. The support is offered to children in both group and individuals settings. In addition, UNHCR and partners provided multi-sectoral services to 3,215 children-at-risk, including unaccompanied and separated children.
Either Work or Education
Making it possible for families to send their children to school
Many refugee parents are forced to make the choice between meeting the basic needs of their family and providing schooling for their children. More often than not, children in a refugee context end up having to work to contribute to the meagre family income – often under difficult and dangerous conditions. Some of them are as young as seven years of age.
We have recognized this as one of the main barriers to education, and this is why UNHCR aims to provide financial support to the most vulnerable families affected by the Syria crisis.
Time to Act contributed to provide financial support for education
This Syrian girl forcibly displaced from her home is back to school. UNHCR was able to provide her with a school kit. ©B.Diab/UNHCR
In Egypt, over 31,000 children received education grants, enabling them to attend school. This also included a number of children with disabilities who were provided with grants enabling them to attend specialized schools. In particular, registered Syrian refugee families with school-attending children have been provided with education grants to help cover the costs of school fees, uniforms, books, stationery and transport.
In Jordan, UNHCR is currently running a revolutionary cash program for the most vulnerable Syrians – linking private enterprises with humanitarian work and using Iris-Scan software to eliminate fraud. Some 81, 580 people are currently benefitting from the cash program and 47,000 of those are children. In addition, 872 Syrian families received urgent cash assistance, a one-time payment for those who are at risk of eviction, for female-headed households, for families with elderly members and for those with a large number of school-aged children. Emergency cash is, for many families, a final safety net.
In Turkey, financial support is exclusively coordinated by the national authorities. Instead of providing cash grants, UNHCR is therefore supporting schools by providing teaching and learning materials. So far in 2014, our support has reached over 80 schools in Turkey.
Education Grants: How do they work?
- The grant is disbursed in two instalments: the first one at the beginning of the school year in August upon the provision of a document proving the registration of a child in school.
- Between January and May, families receive the second instalment voucher upon providing proof of their child’s/children’s continued enrolment.
- The amount of funds given to children attending school depends on the level of education and the type of school (special needs, private, public and community schools).
- Grants are provided in conjunction with food vouchers and cash for basic needs to the majority of beneficiaries to enable them to use education grants toward school expenses only.
- Without basic needs being covered, children would not be registered with educational institutions despite the education grant being available (because they would be expected to contribute toward the family income).
Not Healthy Enough to Learn
Getting children fit for school
The lack of sufficient food and nutrients severely affects Syrian refugee children, leading to serious consequences for their physical and mental development. Health care systems in host countries are overwhelmed by the influx of people in need of treatment and care and are now overstretched. Children who are not healthy enough to go to school and concentrate on learning are at risk of falling further behind, and their chances for a better future are thereby seriously diminished.
Time to Act contributed to vital primary health care to children
A 11-year old Syrian refugee receives medical examination in a hospital in Jordan. UNHCR J.Kohler 2014
In Jordan, UNHCR – together with partners – implemented a number of vaccination campaigns in 2014, ensuring that Syrian refugee children under 5 years of age are vaccinated against polio. We have administered the polio vaccine to over 282,000 children in 2014 so far – both in camps and in urban areas. In addition, we collaborated with our partners on the ground to provide 2,163 students aged 6-20 years of age with physical, lice and vision tests. Most of the students reached were at primary school age.
In Egypt, UNHCR has guaranteed access to health care for all Syrian refugee children in Egypt, with a priority to provide emergency response to acute needs for children under the age of 18. In 2014, we focused on tackling the main health threats for children such as respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, and malnutrition). We also implemented an anti-polio campaign in 2014, were 11,960 Syrian children under the age of 5 were vaccinated against polio
In Lebanon, we helped 80,188 Syrian refugee children to access primary health care facilities in the first half of 2014. We also secured life-saving referral healthcare for approximately 14,660 refugee children.
In Turkey, UNHCR set up 10 pre-fab clinics to ensure that urgent health issues are dealt with swiftly.
The Lure of Going Back
Keeping young Syrians busy with learning, not war
The volatile environment on the border areas of Jordan and Lebanon can lead young refugees, especially boys, to consider returning to Syria to join the struggle – especially when there are no real alternatives accessible to them elsewhere. This is why UNHCR is working hard to monitor the return process, raise awareness for the risk of returning to war, and provide alternatives such as vocational training.
Time to Act has contributed to offer Syrian children valid alternatives
Children in the Za’atri camp during a football tournament inspired by the World Cup. UNHCR/J.Kohler June 2014
In Jordan, 13 Community Support Committees have been established to bring Syrian and Jordanians together and offer sports and cultural activities, including activities specifically targeting children and youth. From January to June 2014, over 24,000 Syrian refugees have benefitted from these facilities, many of them children.
In Lebanon, UNHCR has set up 13 community facilities in 2014 were young refugees from Syria can focus on something outside of the crisis, including recreational and sporting activities.
In Egypt, two youth-friendly spaces were set up, offering educational and recreational activities benefiting over 1,300 children.
In Turkey, community centers have been offering language training to Syrian refugees – an important measure to help people in a situation of displacement accessing paid employment again to rebuild their lives. In addition, UNHCR supported over 1,200 children in 2014 through a number of youths-friendly spaces, where we offer educational and psychosocial support amongst other things.
Living Without an Identity
Preventing Syrian refugee children from becoming stateless
The lack of identity documents in a context of displacement creates obstacles in accessing healthcare, education, social services, as well as the labor market. An increasing number of refugee babies born outside of Syria are at risk of having no nationality, and without birth certificates are outside of official protection and support. Registering new-born babies at birth is therefore incredibly important, especially in an ongoing situation of crisis: children born at the beginning of the Syria crisis will by now have had their 3rd birthday, and are close to reaching primary school age. These are the reasons why UNHCR is working to raise awareness of the importance of birth registration.
Time to Act has contributed to promote and achieve more birth registrations
Children in the Za’atri camp during a football tournament inspired by the World Cup. UNHCR/J.Kohler June 2014
In Jordan, we – together with our delivery partners – distributed more than 15,000 birth registration leaflets and 2,000 posters at registration centers, child-friendly spaces and at infant and young child feeding centers in 2014 so far and more than 1,000 Syrian refugee children living in camps such as Zaatari and Azraq were able to register their births with UNHCR’s support.
In Lebanon, we have been running campaigns to inform about the importance of birth registration, using videos, posters, and lobbying the government to simplify the registration process. Also, more than 5,500 refugee parents of newborns were provided with individual advice and support on birth registration in 2014 so far, to reduce the risk of future statelessness among Syrian refugee children. In July alone, the Statelessness Unit provided telephone counseling on birth registration to over 1,000 individuals with Syrian children born in Lebanon, and facilitated training on birth registration for social workers.
To improve access to education for Syrian refugee children, UNHCR has delivered a range of activities in the education sector itself.
These young Syrian refugee students have all missed out on schooling since the conflict began in 2011. This accelerated learning program at the Qalamoun School outside of Tripoli, Lebanon is helping them to catch up.
In Lebanon, it is estimated that more than 50% of Syrian refugee children aged 5 to 17 are out of any form of education. Among these, adolescents are particularly left out of any form of education due to high drop-out rates, having missed several years of schooling, inability to catch up in class while many of them are under pressure to financially support their families.
In response, UNHCR has employed a three-fold strategy for the education of school-aged refugee children in Lebanon:
- Formal Education: UNHCR supports the resources mobilization for the Ministry of Education to ensure quality access to first and second shift schooling for refugee children, access to secondary and vocational education, space for children in the public system and social cohesion in and around schools.
- Non-Formal Education: UNHCR works hard to increase other educational opportunities for school-aged children including through better identification of out-of-school children, Accelerated Learning Programmes (ALP) and other ways to prepare children for access to certified and quality education.
- Support to the Ministry of Education: The Ministry launched its three-year strategy, Reaching All Children with Education in Lebanon in May 2014. It aims to enroll more than 400,000 children in education by 2016. UNHCR supports the initiative through coordination, secondment of staff to central and regional offices to ensure information-management and monitoring, and equipment & material support to schools.
As a result, we have achieved the following significant education outcomes:
- 31,284 school-age children were able to access primary education through the “first shift” so far. We are covering the tuition fees of $60-$160 per child/year, as well as transport costs of $35 per child/month. Schoolbags, stationery and uniform costs are also covered by UNHCR.
- 31,380 school-age children were able to access primary education through the “second shift”. UNHCR are covering tuition fees for these children, which are higher as schools have to be kept open longer than usual and attendance staff have to be paid, amounting to $630 per child/year. Transportation, schoolbags, stationery and uniform costs are also covered by us.
- 15,129 school-age children were able to access education through the Accelerated Learning Programs
- 2,673 of school-age children attended remedial classes after school
- 62 children with special needs were able to access education, with an overall target for 2014 to support 500 children with special needs into education
- 18 public schools are being rehabilitated, with an overall target for 2014 of 25 schools to be rehabilitated
In Jordan, due to the limited capacity of formal schools, 58% of children are out of school and trying to access informal education. Here, schools are also running double or triple shift to respond to the increased needs – but this is not enough. In response, we – through our partners on the ground – have been rehabilitating school & educational centers for Syrian urban refugees and Jordanians in 2014.:
- In the town of Hatem, in Irbid Governorate, northern Jordan, tensions are rising, much of it related to access to education as the demographics of the town change. With partner ACTED, UNHCR is supporting the Hatem Charity which is currently providing kindergarten, remedial study space and tutoring for students in their final year of studies (Tawjhi) for English and Science. Rehabilitation of the center is currently underway to enhance access to safe place spaces and support the educational efforts for children with disabilities in particular. In addition, the kindergarten will double its capacity to care for up to 100 children.
- In Idoun town, support is being provided to a special education center – the only one of its kind in the northern governorate of Irbid. Currently the Amal Association Special Needs Center does not have the space to accommodate Syrian refugee children due to space and lack of facilities. The project with ACTED is rehabilitating the outdoor area and further equip the Special Needs Centre, allowing for expansion of services to more children including Syrian refugees.
- In Azraq, UNHCR and partners are rehabilitating three public schools supporting a population of 15,000 people – 4,000 of which are Syrian refugees. Rehabilitation includes improvements to classrooms, construction of external walls, providing a kitchen, cafeteria, and garden sheds to support both Jordanian and Syrian students.
- In Yarmouk, UNHCR through partners is constructing an entire new floor of classrooms, bathrooms, stairways in an overloaded school which has forced the school to stop accepting new students of both host and refugee populations. This construction work will enable more students to enroll in public schools and provide more space and better facilities for the local community as well as the refugee community
Also in Jordan, we are supporting the Community Centre Kindergarten project, where 76 students have graduated this year and a further 100 students are enrolled for the year 2014-15. A similar project was established in Tafila, South Jordan, where we supported 65 students (50 Syrians and 15 Jordanians) with uniform, books and transportation in 2014.
Stories from the field
A Fading Blossom
As the civil war engulfed Noorah’s home country, the once straightforward journey from her home in rural Damascus to the large hospital in the city became a journey full of danger and death. Noorah needed follow-up treatment for a kidney disorder but instead, all her mother Fatima could do was anxiously wait and watch her daughter – hoping war would end soon and she could take Noorah back to hospital. As the weeks of war turned into months and years Fatima saw her “little blossom” – the meaning of Noorah’s name in Arabic – fading in front of her.
In March 2014, when Noora’s condition deteriorated further, Fatima decided they must leave Syria. With Noorah and her six other children they fled Damascus and after a week long journey eventually crossed to safety in Iraq Kurdistan. Today the family lives in a UNHCR tent in Basirma Refugee Camp in Iraq Kurdistan. With no work for Fatima’s mother they rely on UNHCR to survive in the remote area. Despite the support, Fatima worries that the war has marked her youngest children forever;
“Noorah used to be such a happy child but now she gets angry all the time. She struggles to concentrate in school and I think this is partly because of her illness but also because of all the things they saw living through the war.”
Noorah has been already assessed in the health clinic within the camp and is being closely monitored while waiting for a referral to a hospital. As soon as her health allowed it Noorah was back to school.
There’s no place like school
For refugee children, who have survived the violent conflict in Syria, school is not just a place of learning but is also a safe place to be a child again.
We met with Mafaz in Basirma Refugee Camp, Iraq to hear why school is so important to refugee children like her. Mafaz is quietly determined to do her best:
“There’s no life for a girl without education” says the eleven-year-old refugee from Syria. “It is school that can get me where I need to be, to a better future. When you study you can have a better understanding of your world. Languages for example, these can allow us to interact with other people. With school we can improve our lives.”
Softly spoken but articulate, Mafaz says that when her home city in Syria was bombed last year she had never in her life felt such fear. Mafaz is not the only one. Of the hundreds of thousands of refugee children living in Northern Iraq under the protection of the UNHCR, many speak of sadness and longing for their home and everything that they once held dear.
“What do I miss in Syria? I miss everything. I miss my school, my favourite teacher, my brothers, uncles and aunts who are still there. I miss the food. I miss so many things from Syria but because of the attacks and the situation it’s not safe to live there so we had to leave.”
Nawaf and Mafaz’s story:
The long walk to find safety
Along with her mother Waseela and younger brother Nawaf (9 years old), Mafaz left her home near the city of Al-Malikiyah in August 2013. With no money to pay for transport, they walked for four days to reach the border with Iraq and then, together with thousands of others, crossed over a temporary bridge and were met by UNHCR in Iraq. Today the family calls a one-room caravan in the Basirma Refugee Camp home.
Despite the strangeness of life as a refugee child, school has given Mafaz a sense of future again. Younger brother Nawaf, however, has struggled to settle back into a routine. He sits scowling in the corner of the family caravan as Mafaz talks and says he always hated school. But when he goes outside to play, Mafaz confides that Nawaf is different now and their mother Waseela says she worries that the war has affected him more than anyone else in the family.
“Mafaz is very clever. I want her to stay in school and succeed, to have a better life than I can give her” says Waseela. “Nawaf used to be very good at school also but here he does not behave well – he is angry, he won’t do what I ask and he doesn’t go to school when he is meant to. He has seen much violence and I worry about him.”
Principle Lukman who runs the primary school in the camp says that a large proportion of the children need psycho-social support;
“Many of the children in the school, especially the ones who lived through bombardment, have severe behavioral problems. I see children who are angry, who don’t speak, who cannot concentrate at school and some just don’t even come. They cannot be children like they used to be, they all need proper psychological care to move on from this”.
Please continue to support Time to Act!
The Syria crisis, now in its fourth year, still shows no signs of abating. With the generous help of our donors, we hope to continue to address the gaps and outstanding challenges that still prevent many Syrian refugee children from accessing school. As this report has shown, we have already come a long way. Please continue to support us through the Time to Act Appeal to ensure that we can build on these truly amazing results and enable many more children affected by the Syria crisis to continue with their education.