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Praying with refugees: education preserves life
Saturday, November 01, 2014

A young girl sits attentively in class in Guereda camp in Chad. (Peter Balleis S.J. — Jesuit Refugee Service)

(Abéché) November 1, 2014 — Food shortages in refugee camps sometimes force families to engage in otherwise unacceptable practices. Some marry off their daughters early in exchange for payment. Young girls wash clothes instead of going to school for as little $1.75 a day; others engage in survival sex. 

Sixty percent reductions in food assistance last year for the 360,000 Sudanese refugee families in eastern Chad have not only put girls and women at risk, they have affected girls' education.

By the end of 2012, 70 percent of all refugees were living in protracted situations, such as Chad, of more than five years. Globally, there is a positive correlation between countries hosting large numbers of refugee and high levels of food insecurity. Recent global emergencies in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria, have diverted the attention of the international media from protracted situations, where rates of acute malnutrition are proportionally higher than in crises.

Food insecurity has a direct impact on education. In the midst of food crises, students drop out or are pulled out of school to help provide for their families. While the number of girls enrolled in primary schools in the refugee camps in eastern Chad is more or less equal to the number of boys, the retention rate for girls is far less. Falling under the weight of traditional domestic and other economic responsibilities, girls are disproportionately affected.

Although World Food Programme has recently introduced a pilot program in Goz Amer camp, increasing food rations for families considered as extremely vulnerable, there are many loopholes. The decision, determined at household level, fails to take into account the situation of girls and women and the patriarchal nature of many Sudanese families. Female members of the household should receive extra attention in regards to food distribution, encouraging families to acknowledge the importance of women in society and promote girls' education.

Reflections for Prayer

In most developing countries, women are the providers. Women provide food. They provide education. They provide care for the families. They are the transmitters of knowledge across generations. Educating a woman ensures not only the education and preservation of her life, but that of her children. The value of girls' education is therefore exponential as it grows and expands through generations. 

by Jacquelyn Pavilon, JRS International Communications Assistant

Suggested Reading for Prayer

Ecclesiastes 7:12,25

For the protection of wisdom is as the protection of money; and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner.

I turned my thoughts toward knowledge; I sought and pursued wisdom and reason, and I recognized that wickedness is foolish and folly is madness.