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Thousands of Children in Flood-Stricken Pakistan May Miss School

The United Nations Children's Fund says it is concerned that tens of thousands of primary school children in flood-stricken parts of Pakistan will miss out on school, because it has not received much-needed funding from the international community. UNICEF says it needs less than $1 million to help many of these children resume their education when school re-opens in mid-August. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

U.N. officials say Baluchistan and Sindh provinces in southwest Pakistan are still suffering from the effects of torrential rains that hit the area following a devastating cyclone in late June. The United Nations Children's Fund says it is afraid primary school education could become one of the casualties of the floods.

U.N. officials say the toll on educational facilities has been severe. UNICEF says more than 1,400 schools have been affected and more than 200 schools have been washed away. In addition, it says about 140 school buildings are being used to shelter families that have lost their homes during the floods.

UNICEF says more than 67,000 primary school-going children could miss out on quality education when schools re-open in mid-August. Spokeswoman, Veronique Taveau says last month, the agency appealed for $6.3 million to provide water and sanitation and educational services for the flood victims.

"The water and sanitation interventions have been fully funded, but not education," she noted. "We need urgently almost $900,000 and out of that amount of money, we have only received $60,000. So, if we want the schools to re-open and if we want the children of the two of the most affected regions in Pakistan to be back to school, we urgently need that money."

School enrollment rates in Baluchistan and rural Sindh are the lowest in the country, particularly for girls. UNICEF says it worries that many of the few children that are going to school will drop out if something is not done right away to help them continue their primary education.

Taveau tells VOA the money is needed to help 20,000 of the most vulnerable children go back to school.

"The money will be used to rehabilitate the schools and also to provide the teachers equipment that they need," she added. "But, also to provide psychological help for the children when they do go back to the schools because of the trauma they have had because of the floods."

Despite the lack of funds, UNICEF is working with local education authorities to support the reopening of the schools on time. Taveau says the agency already has distributed 80 school-in- the-box kits. Each kit contains learning and teaching material for 80 students and one teacher.

In the coming weeks, Taveau says, UNICEF plans to provide other essential school supplies so all school children affected by the floods can continue their education.