Nearly four million children are at risk of dropping out of school due to the drought in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations has warned, amid fears that it could lead to “a lost generation”.
In a recent report, the Guardian said that UNICEF estimates that 3.6 million children in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia are in danger of leaving school with four consecutive seasons of drought mounting pressure on households.
In an indication of how grave the situation is becoming in many areas, the figure has more than tripled – from 1.1 million – in the past six months, pushing millions of families to the brink of poverty and starvation.
“In the Horn of Africa, there are about 15 million children out of school, including these countries. But the fear is that because of the drought an additional 3.6 million more children will drop out as they’re moving with their parents to different areas away from their school,” Abhiyan Jung Rana, UNICEF’s education adviser for eastern and southern Africa, is quoted as saying in the report.
According to the report, girls are the most affected by the drought, with teachers and activists in Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia, saying it is mainly girls who are dropping out of school.
“When the chips are down, it is always the girls who bear the brunt of the situation,” said Sadia Allin, country director for Plan International, an NGO in Somaliland. “It is very worrying. Education provides immediate physical, psychological, and cognitive protection. For girls, being out of school is disappointing. It is impacting their dreams."
She further said that when girls feel they are losing education, it also seems that "they are losing their rights.”
UNICEF, however, said it did not expect a discernible difference between the two genders in terms of the numbers of children at risk of dropping out as the displacement of entire families to other villages with limited educational capacity, including boys and girls, was a major factor in their vulnerability.
According to the UN agency, a lack of school feeding programs, and parents’ inability to afford essentials like books are also among the factors that increase the chances of a child dropping out.
UNICEF estimates that 1.57 million children – roughly equal numbers of girls and boys – are at risk of dropping out of school in Kenya, 1.14 million in Ethiopia, and 900,000 in Somalia, including Somaliland, according to the Guardian report.