By Joseph D'Urso
LONDON, June 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The 34 million children who are out of school in conflict-affected countries need $2.3 billion to get them all schooling, ten times the amount education currently receives in aid, the United Nations' education agency UNESCO said on Monday.
"Returning to school may be the only flicker of hope and normality for many children and youths in countries engulfed in crises," said UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. "Education must be seen as part of the first response when crisis hits."
A suggested target in place since 2011 is that four percent of humanitarian aid be directed to education, but last year education received just two percent of aid, a UNESCO statement said.
"Present targets are hugely insufficient and diverting attention from the true needs of children and youth on the ground," Aaron Benavot, director of UNESCO's Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFA GMR) said.
Children and adolescents in conflict-affected countries, particularly girls, are far more likely to be out of school than their counterparts in other countries, the EFA GMR said in the statement.
Even if the four percent target had been met in 2013, 15.5 million children and youths would still have had no humanitarian help with education, UNESCO said.
Just four percent of education appeals worldwide received half of all humanitarian funding for education, the report said, with Chad and the Congo faring particularly badly. Haiti, Sudan and the countries affected by the 2005 Asian tsunami did well.
"Media attention unfairly prioritizes some countries over others," UNESCO said, adding that many appeals did not cover all those in need.
In 2013, 21 million people in conflict areas needed help with education, eight million of them were included in appeals, but just three million got help when funding was distributed, UNESCO said. (Reporting By Joseph D'Urso, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)