|UNITED NATIONS,Feb.2,2018-- Nearly three in 10 young people aged 15-24 living in countries affected by conflict or disasters are illiterate, tripling the global rate, the UN children's fund (UNICEF) said Wednesday.
Niger, Chad, South Sudan and the Central African Republic -- all countries with a long history of instability and high levels of poverty -- are home to the highest illiteracy rates among young people of this age group, with 76 percent, 69 percent, 68 percent and 64 percent respectively.
"These numbers are a stark reminder of the tragic impact that crises have on children's education, their futures, and the stability and growth of their economies and societies," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "An uneducated child who grows into an illiterate youth in a country ripped apart by conflict or destroyed by disasters may not have much of a chance."
Girls and young women are at the biggest disadvantage when it comes to reading and writing, with a third of them in emergency countries failing to learn even the basics, compared to a quarter of boys, said UNICEF.
Yet, despite its role in leveling the playing field for the most vulnerable children and young people, education remains severely underfunded. Currently, only 3.6 percent of humanitarian funding goes to education for children living in emergencies, making it one of the least funded sectors in humanitarian appeals, it said.
UNICEF estimates that it will spend approximately one billion U.S. dollars a year on education programs over the next four years.
It urged governments and other partners to take action to tackle the education crisis affecting children and young people in emergencies.
"Education can make or break a child's future," said Fore. "For all children to fully reap the benefits of learning, it is key that they get the best quality education possible, as early as possible."