UN launches $220 million campaign to educate 9 million vulnerable children

UN launches $220 million campaign to educate 9 million vulnerable children

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The United Nations refugee agency has launched a campaign to raise $220 million by 2010 to allow 9 million refugee and vulnerable children, particularly those from Sudan’s Darfur region, Iraq and Colombia, to get an education, partly based on the Internet as well as by getting teachers into remote locations.

Launching the campaign yesterday at the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) summit in New York, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres called the initiative “a means of ensuring that vulnerable children are fully able to realize their right to an education.”

The renewed ninemillion campaign (www.ninemillion.org), through a so-called Education (Plus) programme, seeks to address all aspects of a child’s educational needs, from teachers and notebooks to transportation, water and vocational training. Its programme puts particular emphasis on getting girls into the classroom.

The campaign brings together UNHCR and private sector partners such as sports goods maker Nike, software giant Microsoft, employment service provider Manpower, the advertising group WPP, and GSMA, an association of mobile phone operators and equipment suppliers.

“I believe the mobile industry can play an important role within the ninemillion initiative as access to telecommunications and the internet will enable refugee children to learn about their world,” GSMA Chief Executive Officer Rob Conway said.

Manpower's Senior Vice-President David Arkless added: “We owe every refugee child an education to give them the tools to make a life for themselves.”

The initial focus of ninemillion will be on uprooted children from Darfur, Iraq and Colombia, which are among the world’s worst displacement crises. The campaign was originally launched last year on World Refugee Day, 20 June, to open up education and sports opportunities for millions of refugee children around the world. Many have already benefited. The unveiling of Education (Plus) at the three-day CGI re-launches the campaign and gives it new concrete goals.

In a related development 150,000 children in conflict areas, especially Iraq and the occupied Palestinian Territory, will benefit from a distance-learning project under a $30-million grant from the William J. Clinton Foundation to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF is working with Microsoft, the International Rescue Committee and computer maker Hewlett Packard on the project.