The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the European Union (EU) today announced the launch of a new social media-driven public awareness campaign aimed at reaching 20 million Europeans and highlighting the importance of education for children affected by emergencies.
The #EmergencyLessons campaign specifically targets people 25 years old and younger in Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom to inspire them to raise their voices on behalf of millions of children and adolescents whose education has been interrupted by emergencies, UNICEF said in a press release.
“Young people understand better than anyone how important education is to their lives today and to their futures,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
“Who knows better than they that their tomorrows depend on what they learn today? Who, better than today's youth, can demand that the world provides them with the skills they will need to build a better world? Their future, and ours, depends on it,” he added.
The campaign draws on the real-life experiences of children living through emergencies in countries such as Guinea, Iraq, Nepal and Ukraine. Throughout the next seven months, their stories will be shared on social media through #EmergencyLessons.
Nearly one in four of the world's school-age children – 462 million – now live in 35 countries affected by crises, including an estimated 75 million children who are in desperate need of educational support, UNICEF stressed.
Apart from missing out on education, and the benefits it yields for them and for their societies, out-of-school children are more vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and recruitment by armed forces, the agency said.
UNICEF noted that the campaign also celebrates the other benefits of going to school – the friends made, the teachers who support children through trauma, and the stability found in the routine of attending classes.
“Here in Europe, we tend to take school for granted, and forget what a vital part of life it is to children, especially when everything else around them is collapsing,” said Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. “We hope this campaign will better help Europeans understand why, when disaster strikes, opportunities to learn are just as important as access to food, water, vaccines and shelter.”
UNICEF noted that a number of celebrities are lending their support to the campaign, such as Samantha Cristoforetti, Italian European Space Agency astronaut; Boštjan Nachbar, Slovenian basketball player; Kriszta D. Tóth, Hungarian news presenter and media personality; and Jaro Bekr, Slovakian dancer.