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The Fierce Urgency of Now

Yasmine Sherif, is Director of Education Cannot Wait

Apr 9 2020 - We are living in a crisis unprecedented since World War II: COVID-19. The pandemic brutally sweeps across the globe, where we already face a massive global learning crisis and multiple brutal humanitarian crises. How much more can those left furthest behind in forced displacement and armed conflicts take?

Across 26 countries of conflicts and forced displacement, host-governments are now struggling to find solutions for the 230 million estimated children and youth out of school, not the least the girls who are the most marginalized. UN agencies and civil society are trying their best to mitigate the impact of the Corona virus on their life and their learning. COVID-19 poses enormous risks for those left furthest behind, their learning and development, their safety, their food security, and their overall physical and mental health.

In response, Education Cannot Wait immediately conducted a rapid assessment in close conjunction with all our stakeholders and partners in-country ‘The Fierce Urgency of Now! Education In Emergency Response to COVID-19.’ The assessment paints an alarming picture of the huge impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on already severely strained education systems in countries affected by conflicts and forced displacement. There is an acute shortage of distance learning tools and materials, which means that millions of students won’t be able to complete the current school year. Many do not have access to trusted and accurate information about the measures and behaviours that mitigate the threat of the virus.

In support of the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, ECW is doing what it can to deliver urgently needed assistance, both by making the necessary adjustments to existing programmes and by releasing funds to quickly move from face-to-face to distance learning. This entails stepping up investments in mental health and psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as other cross-sectoral activities linked to student, teacher and parent well-being and protection against, and dealing with the impacts of, COVID-19.

Last week, ECW released it emergency reserve of US$23 million to 55 UN agencies and Non-governmental organizations to protect and support vulnerable girls and boys facing the COVID-19 pandemic in 26 crisis-affected countries. As the Chair of the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Steering Group and UN Special Envoy, Gordon Brown, stated: “Martin Luther King Jr spoke of the fierce urgency of now. The crisis is now and that is why ECW is making its entire emergency reserve available.”

When there is a crisis, one’s response cannot wait. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr “In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such thing as being too late.” At Education Cannot Wait, we encourage our strategic partners to help fill $50 million gaps now for the first three months from April to June and to stay with us throughout the entire emergency response and during the recovery in the aftermath of COVID-19.

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