Nearly 75 million children in countries hit by war and disaster are in desperate need of education and help to stay in school, the United Nations children's agency has said.

A quarter of school-age children, 462 million, live in countries affected by such crises, UNICEF said, adding that only 2 percent of global humanitarian appeals were, on average, dedicated to education.

UNICEF also announced details of the Education Cannot Wait fund, which will be launched at the first World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey this month.

It aims to raise nearly $4bn to reach 13.6 million children within five years and 75 million by 2030.

"Education changes lives in emergencies," Josephine Bourne, UNICEF's education chief, said in a statement.

"Going to school keeps children safe from abuses like trafficking and recruitment into armed groups and is a vital investment in children's futures and in the future of their communities.

"It is time education is prioritised by the international community as an essential part of basic humanitarian response, alongside water, food and shelter."


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In Syria, more than 6,000 schools are out of use, having been attacked, occupied by the military or turned into emergency shelters. In the Central African Republic a quarter of schools are not functioning.

In periods of crisis, parents cite education as one of their top priorities, yet last year only a fraction of children identified as needing education as part of humanitarian response plans were reached, UNICEF said.

According to UNICEF, of the 34 million school-age children in conflict-hit countries in the Middle East, 40 percent are out of schools.The new fund will disburse aid at the first sign of upheaval and provide longer-term funding for protracted crises, according to UNICEF.

In the poorest communities, UNICEF said a child who is out of school for more than a year is unlikely to return. Girls are 2.5 times more likely to drop out of school than boys.

UNICEF said disruption to schooling also had huge implications for long-term development.

"If education is not used as a lever to break the cycle, then crises will continue to be repeated."

The fund will seek support from new donor countries, the commercial sector, foundations, philanthropists, Diasporas and faith-based groups, as well as traditional donors.

It will be launched by UNICEF with partners including the UN education envoy, the UN refugee agency and governments.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation