The Lesson of Nepal
The response to the earthquake is following a predictable pattern, with education taking a back seat to the immediate emergency response. A humanitarian fund for education in emergencies needs to be established, so that vulnerable children are not forced to wait in misery and insecurity while the adults pass around the begging bowl.
LONDON – A disaster happens. Bilateral aid is promised. Then the waiting game begins. It is a pattern that is all too common, and it is one that, sadly, is being repeated in Nepal. More than a week after the earthquake and aftershocks killed more than 7,000 people and devastated the capital, Kathmandu, and despite the mobilization of massive amounts of aid from international agencies, the country’s finance minister had yet to receive any of the money promised by foreign countries.
Disaster aid for education in such circumstances almost always flows far too slowly, because there is no central pool of funds available to be distributed when a crisis erupts. And for the children of Nepal, the consequences are doubly devastating. More than 1.7 million children require immediate aid, according to UNICEF Australia. More than 16,000 schools have been damaged, including some 5,000 that were completely destroyed. Of the 500 schools in the hard-hit Gorkha district, 450 have been leveled or are now derelict.
The United Nations is doing what it can. According to the UN resident coordinator, there has been a quick airlift and supply of materials – such as the well-known “School in a Box,” a pre-packaged educational kit suitable for teaching up to 40 children, Early Childhood Development Kit, and Recreation Kits – for displaced boys and girls. In the meantime, the best that can be hoped for Nepal’s children is that tents and shelters can be brought in to create Child-Friendly Spaces.