UNHCR hails EU decision to donate Nobel funding for children

News Stories, 19 December 2012

© (C) European Union
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso (centre) with senior European Union officials and representatives of the organizations receiving Nobel Prize funds, including UNHCR's Emmy Takahashi (second from left).

GENEVA, December 19 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Wednesday welcomed the decision by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning European Union to donate some of the cash award to help UNHCR improve access to education for thousands of Colombian children.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced in Brussels on Tuesday that the EU would be donating the prize money from this year's Nobel award, plus its own matching amount, to four humanitarian projects benefitting 23,000 children affected by conflict and forced displacement worldwide. The donations are worth a total 2 million euros.

This included 400,000 euros for UNHCR's project to provide educational support for 5,600 Colombian children, including refugees in Ecuador (4,900) and children of indigenous groups (700) threatened by displacement. The support will include scholarships, provision of school uniforms and materials. In addition, schools in poor neighbourhoods will be renovated, benefitting both the displaced and local children.

"We are delighted that the European Union has chosen to support the most vulnerable victims of a crisis that does not make the headlines very often," said High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. "Education is one of the most pressing needs for Colombian children affected by the conflict, and it is an important gesture to share this prize with them."

The other organizations to receive EU funding are all UNHCR partners and include France's ACTED for a project to provide protection and education to 4,000 refugee children in northern Iraq's Domiz refugee camp; Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council for a project to provide education and protection to 11,000 children in Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia; and UNICEF for a project to provide learning opportunities to 3,000 children affected by conflict in Pakistan.

The EU was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for its work over the past six decades in advancing peace in Europe since the Second World War. UNHCR itself has won the Nobel Peace Prize twice, in 1954 and 1981.

Colombians continue to suffer the effects of an armed conflict that has persisted for decades. There are more than 3.8 million people officially registered as forcibly displaced within Colombia and tens of thousands of refugees, including more than 55,000 registered in Ecuador.

The EU was UNHCR's third biggest donor in 2012. It funds primarily humanitarian aid with a focus on the victims of forgotten crises. At the same time, the EU supports UNHCR's longer-term objectives both within and outside of Europe, including socio-economic reintegration of returnees and development of asylum systems.


EU's assistance to children in conflict




UNHCR country pages


Education is vital in restoring hope and dignity to young people driven from their homes.

DAFI Scholarships

The German-funded Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative provides scholarships for refugees to study in higher education institutes in many countries.

Chad: Education in Exile

UNHCR joins forces with the Ministry of Education and NGO partners to improve education for Sudanese refugees in Chad.

The ongoing violence in Sudan's western Darfur region has uprooted two million Sudanese inside the country and driven some 230,000 more over the border into 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Although enrolment in the camp schools in Chad is high, attendance is inconsistent. A shortage of qualified teachers and lack of school supplies and furniture make it difficult to keep schools running. In addition, many children are overwhelmed by household chores, while others leave school to work for local Chadian families. Girls' attendance is less regular, especially after marriage, which usually occurs by the age of 12 or 13. For boys and young men, attending school decreases the possibility of recruitment by various armed groups operating in the area.

UNHCR and its partners continue to provide training and salaries for teachers in all 12 refugee camps, ensuring a quality education for refugee children. NGO partners maintain schools and supply uniforms to needy students. And UNICEF is providing books, note pads and stationary. In August 2007 UNHCR, UNICEF and Chad's Ministry of Education joined forces to access and improve the state of education for Sudanese uprooted by conflict in Darfur.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Chad: Education in Exile

Education for Displaced Colombians

UNHCR works with the government of Colombia to address the needs of children displaced by violence.

Two million people are listed on Colombia's National Register for Displaced People. About half of them are under the age of 18, and, according to the Ministry of Education, only half of these are enrolled in school.

Even before displacement, Colombian children attending school in high-risk areas face danger from land mines, attacks by armed groups and forced recruitment outside of schools. Once displaced, children often lose an entire academic year. In addition, the trauma of losing one's home and witnessing extreme violence often remain unaddressed, affecting the child's potential to learn. Increased poverty brought on by displacement usually means that children must work to help support the family, making school impossible.

UNHCR supports the government's response to the educational crisis of displaced children, which includes local interventions in high-risk areas, rebuilding damaged schools, providing school supplies and supporting local teachers' organizations. UNHCR consults with the Ministry of Education to ensure the needs of displaced children are known and planned for. It also focuses on the educational needs of ethnic minorities such as the Afro-Colombians and indigenous people.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Education for Displaced Colombians

Panama's Hidden Refugees

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Panama's Hidden Refugees

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Syrian refugee carries Olympic torch through Athens

Symbolic gesture intended to show solidarity with the world's refugees at a time when millions are fleeing war and persecution worldwide.
Ecuador earthquake leaves thousands homelessPlay video

Ecuador earthquake leaves thousands homeless

More than a week after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador killing nearly 600 people, thousands of Ecuadorans and many Colombian refugees remain homeless. UNHCR is distributing 900 tents and other aid in the hardest-hit areas like Chamanga, a Pacific-coast town where the half the population lost their homes.
Ethiopia: Education, A Refugee's Call to ServePlay video

Ethiopia: Education, A Refugee's Call to Serve

War forced Lim Bol Thong to flee South Sudan, putting his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold. As a refugee in the Kule camp in Gambella, Ethiopia, he has found another way to serve. Just 21 years old, Lim started teaching chemistry at the school's primary school and last year was promoted to Vice Principal.