3 In 10 Young People Are Illiterate Conflict Or Disaster Stricken Countries- UNICEF

Nearly three in 10 young people aged between 15 and 24 years old - or in total approximately 59 million - living in countries affected by conflict or disaster are illiterate,triple the global rate,according to UNICEF’s new analysis.

The United Nations children’s agency said, Niger,Chad,South Sudan and Central African Republic- all countries with a long history of instability and high levels of poverty- are home to the highest illiteracy rates among young people with 76 percent, 69 percent,68 percent and 64 percent of 15 to 24 year olds,respectively,unable to read or write.

“These numbers are a stark reminder of the tragic impact that crises have on children’s education,their futures, and the stability and growth of their economies and societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore.

“An uneducated child who grows into an illiterate youth in a country ripped apart by conflict or destroyed by disasters may not have much of achance,” Fore added.

This new analysis, calculated using UNESCO’s literacy rates in 27 emergency countries featured in “UNICEF’s 2018 Humanitarian Action for Children” appeal, is released ahead of Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Replenishment Conference in Dakar, Senegal.

GPE’s third replenishment for 2018-2020 aims to raise significant commitments to education from partner countries, and current and new donors in order to ensure that all children and youth are in school and learning. The replenishment will focus on education for childrenin emergencies, inclusive education and early learning.

The analysis also notes that girls and young women are at the biggest disadvantage when it comes to reading and writing, with 33 percent of them in emergency countries failing to learn even the basics,compared to 24 percent of boys.

Yet,despite its role in leveling the playing field for the most vulnerable children and young people,education remains severely underfunded.Currently,only 3.6percent of humanitarian funding goes toward providing education for children living in emergencies,making it one of the least funded sectors in humanitarian appeals.

Overall, UNICEF estimates that it will spend approximately $1 billion ayear on education programmes over the next four years.Just yesterday,UNICEF launched a humanitarian appeal for $900 million for educationin countries affected by conflicts and natural disasters.

UNICEF works in countries around the world to get children into school and learning including by providing accelerated education and non-formal learning opportunities,training teachers, rehabilitating schools and distributing school furniture and supplies. 


 Chubat (right),12, sits with her friendin the burned ruins of her school in Malakal Protection of Civilian site.The UNICEF supported primary school in South Sudan was burnt down during a fighting in February 2016. - Photo Hakim George © UNICEF

In West and Central Africa,home to emergency countries with the highest rates of illiteracy among youth at 39 percent and where the third replenishment conference will be hosted,UNICEF works with arange of partners to help children learn despite conflict and insecurity.

A partnership with the governments of Cameroon and Niger,for example,is helping expand an innovative radio education programme that provides an alternative learning platform for children and youth affected by crises.More than 144 episodes on literacy and numeracy are broadcast across radio in French, Fulfulde, Hausa and Kanouri.The programme will soon be rolled out in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic,Guinea, and Guinea Bissau.

 UNICEF Representative in Yemen Merixell Relano (with white scarf)checks the condition of the Aldailami School facilities in Yemen.


An uneducated child who grows into an illiterate youth in a country ripped apart by conflict or destroyed by disasters may not have much of a chance.


UNICEF urges governments and other partners to take action to tackle the education crisis affecting children and young people in emergencies including by:

Providing young children with access to quality early education programmes to support their development and set them up to continue learning throughout their childhood;

Offering illiterate young people the opportunity to learn to read and write and further their education through specially designed alternative and accelerated education programmes;

Increasing investment in education,particularly for the most disadvantaged children and youth.

Shaima, 10, and a classmate hold hands while standing beside rubble from a destroyed part of Shuje’iyah Girls’ School in Shuja’iyeh neighbourhood,eastern Gaza City. - Photo Eyad El Baba © UNICEF

“Education can make or break achild’s future. For all children to fully reap the benefits of learning,it is key that they get the best quality education possible,as early as possible,” Ms. Fore said.

UNICEF used UNESCO’s International Study (UIS) 2018 data to calculate illiteracy rates among young people aged between 15 and 24 year sold in 27 of countries with available data out of 32 emergency countries where UNICEF has an individual humanitarian appeal.