Day of the (Forgotten) African Child

Nairobi - While students in North America and Europe get ready to celebrate the school holidays, 1.4 million children in East Africa are desperate to resume their education. 

As the continent commemorates the 2017 Day of the African Child, the focus on protecting children and creating equal opportunities for all, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, could not be more apt for millions of East Africa’s children today. 

World Vision is raising alarm about 1.4 million children in South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda who have abandoned their education and fled their homes due to armed conflict or extreme hunger due to drought. 

“In many places, children are on the move, in search of safety and food, foregoing their education. We know that in South Sudan, schools have been violently attacked and one in every four schools is closed. In drought-affected areas of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, we have heard of schools closing because children no longer attend, as they search for food or water to survive,” says Zacharia Imeje, World Vision’s regional humanitarian and emergency affairs advisor in East Africa.

Widespread drought is affecting 22 million people across eastern Africa. A lack of sufficient growing conditions, water and food has displaced millions, separating families and forcing children in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia to migrate. Meanwhile, conflict in South Sudan has displaced more than 3 million people, with 1.8 million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Many of those children have travelled unaccompanied and arrive in countries such as Uganda in desperate need of protection, food aid and other critical services.

“Largely, children who are displaced have been forced to abandon their education, and have been forgotten about by the rest of the world,” says Brenda Kariuki, World Vision’s director of advocacy, campaigns and external engagement in East Africa. “No matter what their circumstance or location, all children should have the opportunity to go to school. Governments and humanitarian actors should work together to ensure that children in drought or conflict affected areas do not forgo their education – it is their right, and we owe it to them.”

With drought conditions persisting, Imeje worries that more children will drop out of school in the months to come, limiting their opportunities for the future and increasing their risk of exploitation. 

World Vision has launched a US $110 million appeal to respond to the conflict and hunger crisis across South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. More than 30,000 children have been already been reached through emergency child protection and education programmes. Meanwhile, a refugee response in Uganda is appealing for US $10 million, to reach 1.6 million people in need.