Education aid for Syria refugee kids goes missing

Reuters
Millions of dollars pledged by world leaders last year to fund the education of destitute Syrian children refugees never reached the students nor can be accounted for.
Reuters

Millions of dollars pledged by world leaders last year to fund the education of destitute Syrian children refugees never reached the students nor can be accounted for, a top human rights group said today.

The missing funds from several major donors from the United States to the European Union have contributed to about a half million Syrian children being out of school, Human Rights Watch said in a report.

World leaders made detailed promises of donations during a February 2016 conference in London that sought to address the humanitarian needs of millions of people displaced by the Syrian civil war.

Since 2011, the conflict has forced more than five million people to flee Syria, many seeking safety in neighboring Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

The pledges exceeded the US$1.4 billion that aid groups and UN agencies said was needed to send out-of-school Syrian children to class.

But HRW said it “found large discrepancies between the funds that the various parties said were given and the reported amounts that reached their intended targets in 2016.”

By the end of 2016, authorities in Lebanon were still awaiting more than a quarter of US$350 million pledged to hire teachers, buy books and plan classes for refugee children, it said.

In Jordan, the shortfall for 2016 was about a fifth of the US$250-million promised.

HRW said donor nations may have failed to publicize ways that their pledges became actual donations.

The US State Department said the Agency for International Development, for instance, made payments of nearly a quarter of a million dollars to Jordan, but most of those funds failed to appear in USAID’s tracking database, the report said.

Asked for comment, a USAID spokeswoman said the funds of nearly US$601 million pledged at the London conference were not specifically earmarked for education and have been provided to the intended recipients.

HRW researchers chided the EU for being opaque about some of the US$776 million it promised to donate to educate Syrian refugee children in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

EU officials in Brussels and in Washington did not comment.

School enrollment of Syrian children did increase in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey after the London summit, HRW said. But a lack of timely funding contributed to more than 530,000 children in the three nations remaining out of school.

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