Rights group says mil­lions in Syria school aid goes miss­ing

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World -

GOV­ERN­MENTS and aid agen­cies have been un­able to ac­count for mil­lions of dol­lars in school aid for Syrian refugees, frus­trat­ing ef­forts to meet school­ing needs for chil­dren in Le­banon, Jor­dan, and Turkey, Hu­man Rights Watch said Thurs­day.

More than half a mil­lion school-age Syrian refugees in the three coun­tries were out of school last year, in part be­cause of se­vere fund­ing gaps, the re­port by the New York-based group said. There are at least 1.6 mil­lion Syrian chil­dren refugees in the re­gion.

In Le­banon, classes for Syrian refugee chil­dren are packed, and stu­dents at­tend school in half-day shifts in or­der to free up class­room space for en­roll­ment. Even so, more than half the school-age Syr­i­ans in the coun­try are not at­tend­ing school, ac­cord­ing to Lisa Abou Khaled, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer for the U.N. refugee agency.

The chal­lenges in­clude pulling im­pov­er­ished chil­dren away from work, find­ing money to pay for their trans­porta­tion and sup­plies, and help­ing stu­dents feel safe and com­fort­able in schools.

Hu­man Rights Watch says late or miss­ing aid has com­pounded those prob­lems.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment aid agency USAID, for ex­am­ple, re­ported it had given $248 mil­lion in school aid to Jor­dan last year, but Jor­dan’s gov­ern­ment only re­ported re­ceiv­ing $13 mil­lion. A sep­a­rate USAID data­base only tracked $82 mil­lion in dis­burse­ments that year.

Aid agen­cies in Le­banon are try­ing to fill a $25 mil­lion bud­get deficit to get stu­dents back in school this year, Abou Khaled said. Hu­man Rights Watch said donor na­tions fell $97 mil­lion short of their pledges to pro­vide $250 mil­lion for school­ing in Le­banon in 2016.

The six largest donors are the E.U., the U.S., Germany, the U.K., Ja­pan, and Nor­way.

Hu­man Rights Watch re­searcher Si­mon Rau and one of the au­thors of the re­port said more trans­parency is needed to iden­tify the fund­ing gaps.

“Refugee host­ing coun­tries and donors have promised time and again that Syrian chil­dren will not be­come a lost gen­er­a­tion,” said Rau. “How­ever, that’s what’s hap­pen­ing again.” – AP

A Syrian refugee girl sits in a class­room at a Le­banese pub­lic school where only Syrian stu­dents at­tend classes in the af­ter­noon. Photo: AP

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