On the 20th June each year, the world commemorates the strength, courage, and resilience of millions of refugees. Around the world more than 50 million people have fled their homes, and over half of these are children.
The refugee children we work with in Lebanon, Bangladesh and Myanmar all show great strength, courage and resilience every day, surviving in some of the toughest places around the world. On World Refugee Day 2019, we wanted to take the time to share some of their thoughts and experiences.
Kyaka II refugee settlement, close to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has approximately 700 new arrivals each week over 65% of which are children. Having fled armed conflict, ebola, and horrific human rights abuses, many suffer extreme trauma as a result of witnessing the brutality of war and displacement. They face serious child protection risks and have nowhere safe to go during the day.
The youngest refugee children need support
A number of NGOs are providing primary education in Kyaka II, but early years education provision is limited for the youngest children, at a vital time in their development. Our assessment showed a need for up to 30 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres across 30 communities within the settlement.
In these communities, local people are doing the best they can to provide early years learning, but provision and resources are variable at best. While some communities are doing well, with Centres in a relatively good state of repair, others have non-existent provision and broken down venues that are not fit for purpose. Many Centres lack consistent quality teacher training, or well established community ownership. Without this, trained teachers have no incentive to use their training locally, and leave to find jobs in other areas of Uganda, and communities have no support or resources to maintain provision.
Resourcing communities to provide early years education
Through training and targeted resourcing, we aim to support 30 refugee communities in Kyaka II camp, to replicate our model of best practice, ensuring high quality, cost effective ECD for their children.
With multiple conflicts stretching across vast areas of the country, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s most complex and long-standing humanitarian situations.
Civilians here are exposed to gross human rights violations, sexual and gender-based violence, chronic malnutrition, and various health epidemics including the serious spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
After three years of great progress with tented education in Bekaa Valley, nearly 300 Syrian refugee children have taken another huge step forward by moving to a brand new school.
Together with partners Triumphant Mercy (TM), after supporting the creation of four colourful tent schools in Bekaa Valley settlements over the last few years, all the students have now transitioned to a new central building in Zahle.
Over the past four years Children on the Edge have been working in partnership with Lebanese NGO - Triumphant Mercy, within the refugee communities in Bekaa Valley. Together we worked to provide quality, child friendly education for Syrian refugee children who are unable to access government or UN school provision.
Since 2014, through four tent schools and a Community Centre school in Beirut, we supported education for hundreds of children aged 6 -12. Each school had a bespoke curriculum, refugee teachers, vocational skills opportunities and an environment of warmth and safety, where children could blossom.
Over the last three years we worked with teachers and staff at the tent schools to monitor and evaluate the progress of the children through these schools. The evaluation was extremely positive and at the close of 2018 results showed:
Kachin State is the northernmost state of Myanmar (also known as Burma) and is bordered by China to the north and east. The Kachin people are an ethnic minority in Myanmar, a highland indigenous people with rich traditions.
Historical tensions between the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Myanmar government have intensified over the last seven years, placing civilians at huge risk.
A 17-year ceasefire was broken by Burmese troops in June 2011, heavy shelling near civilian populations was commonplace and women reported many incidents of systematic rape by the Burmese Army.
Human Rights Watch reported government soldiers blocking needed humanitarian aid, torching villages and firing on innocent civilians and Fortify Rights have extensive evidence of systematic torture being used as an attack on civilians.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimate that around 86,000 people remain displaced in Kachin State, spread across 140 camps. Our partners estimate the numbers on the border to be more in the region of 120,000.
More than 46% of those displaced are living in areas beyond government control where international actors have very limited humanitarian access. Those living in the crowded Internally Displaced People's (IDP) camps are terrified, cut off from vital aid and still subject to regular military attack.
As central government appears determined to crush the last remaining pocket of armed resistance in Myanmar, their recent tactics have been increasingly harsh. With significant natural resources and political influence at stake, the human tragedy is worsening, and largely ignored by the international community.
Thousands of Kachin children are forced to cope in very difficult circumstances with little support for their healthy development. Many children here under the age of 6, have known little else but war.
Daily life offers few chances of respite from the effects of violence and they have no access to early years education, creative play and psychosocial support.
Over 18 months since the start of the Rohingya refugee crisis, despite the wealth of agencies investing in education for children in Kutupalong, only about 45% of refugee children currently have access to education in the camps.
Navigating the multiple layers of bureaucracy and negotiating building space in the densely populated camp has made provision a huge challenge, and as the crisis has become protracted, the promised formal curriculum for refugee children was postponed by the government for over a year.
Despite these obstacles, Children on the Edge have successfully established 75 Learning Centres which have all been running five days a week since June 2018, providing education for 7,500 children.
150 Bangladesh and Rohingya teachers are fully trained and running classes each day. They have been trained on communication, child rights, health, hygiene, first aid, identifying trauma, classroom management and how to make learning engaging.
The unique traits of these Centres are as follows:
We are confident that our prior experience in the camp and unique perspective on education with Rohingya children will allow us to set the benchmark for quality education in the refugee camp areas in the coming year.
In the last few days Storm Norma has hit Lebanon with heavy rains, snowfall and freezing temperatures, leaving an estimated 70,000 refugees in need of emergency assistance.
Lebanon hosts over 1.5 million Syrian refugees, many of whom live in informal settlements with little to no infrastructure, as official refugee camps are not permitted. This makes these kinds of crises difficult to address, and UNHCR’s Interagency Coordination group report that 361 informal settlements and 11,301 refugees have been impacted by the storm so far. Unfortunately, the body of an 8 year old girl reported missing on Wednesday 10th January was recovered the day after. She had drowned after slipping into a rainwater channel.
For over four years, Children on the Edge have been supporting a small Lebanese organisation called Triumphant Mercy, to provide education for 500 Syrian refugee children, living in informal settlements the Bekaa Valley. They are also instrumental in providing additional support, care and supplies for the children and families living in these camps.
When the areas they work in were hit by the storms this week, this dedicated local group responded immediately, and Children on the Edge are urgently appealing for donations to assist them in rebuilding shelters.
Project leader Nuna Matar says, "All the refugees who are living under tents, or who are living in unfinished buildings were really severely hit by this storm...some of the tents are like shacks, so the winter snow is heavy on the roof, and some of them had their roofs collapse on them, so they had to find refuge in neighbouring tents and they had to rebuild, again”.
Many families have had mattresses, bedding, clothing and food destroyed and some tents are completely underwater. Children on the Edge are currently raising funds to pay for wood and plastic to help with rebuilding.
Nuna and her team are visiting the camps to provide help, but they struggle to get across the mountains from Beirut because of the heavy snow. Another storm is expected next week and they urgently need support to help affected families. 315 sites in the Bekaa area alone are at risk of further flooding and/or the accumulation of snow.
Nuna says, “There’s just not enough food, clothing, and shelter. Getting donor support for Lebanon has been challenging because the Syrian refugee crisis has fallen off the front page.”
You can support the appeal by visiting http://bit.ly/lebanonstorm
* Update 16/01/19*
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, yesterday we were able to send $1,000 to our partners in Lebanon. Today they have already began distributing warm jumpers and blankets in the storm-hit refugee camp (see photos below).
Project leader Nuna Matar said "I went yesterday to the camps to check how people are coping with Norma storm that hit Lebanon few days ago. And what I have seen is flooded tents, wet belongings and in some cases ruined tents. Another storm is also hitting today so I wanted to do the trip before roads are blocked with ice and snow.
We tried to help as much as possible distributing warm clothes for the children and opening up one of our schools as a shelter. I know we can do more. I received yesterday several calls from neighbouring camps begging us to come and help. We are so grateful that we are able to respond in some small way."
Thank you to everyone who has shared our social media posts and donated.
Watch this space to see the development of these plans and click the buttons below to get involved.