Nearly 6 million school children’s education could be affected by Ethiopia’s worst drought in 50 years. The root cause of school dropout is food and water scarcity. If food and water is restored to schools, children will return. 20 NGOs are ready to scale up and support the Government of Ethiopia’s education in emergency response but, to date, dedicated funding from Ethiopia’s Humanitarian Response Fund has not been allocated to NGO education partners.
The key impacts of Ethiopia’s worst drought – food and water scarcity, devastation of livelihoods, forced migration and increased child malnutrition – are having significant knock-on effects for children’s education, just at a time when Ethiopia has made significant strides in improving children’s access to a quality and inclusive education.
Across the drought affected areas, children are no longer attending school on a regular basis, if not dropping out altogether, as a consequence of the drought. While children are out of school for a myriad of reasons, two common factors – a chronic lack of food and water – are pushing children away from their classrooms and placing their protection and development at risk.
In times of emergencies, particularly during drought, schools can provide a platform for an integrated emergency response for children. When children are in school, they can access food, safe water, sanitation, nutrition and psychosocial support while at the same time be protected and continue to learn and develop.
In the long term, if children continue to access an education during times of drought, particularly one that incorporates disaster preparedness and adaption, their chances of reaching their potential and their capacity to cope and adapt when faced with future droughts increases. This will have positive impacts for their communities and Ethiopia’s overall social and economic prospects.
Yet the power of schools to sustain and protect Ethiopia’s children during the current drought crisis and the role it can play in mitigating the impact of cyclical droughts on children’s long-term development remains to be realised.