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Left out and left behind

Growing up in crisis

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13 million girls are out of school because of conflict and disaster

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For every ten refugee boys in secondary school there are fewer than seven refugee girls

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2 in 3 girlsin humanitarian crisis won’t start secondary school

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Helena, South Sudan
Photo ©Kate Holt/Plan International


In South Sudan, 14-year-old Helena and her family were forced to flee their home after fighting broke out.

Since then, Helena’s father and two of her brothers have died. Now Helena spends her days looking after the family’s cows.

“We had to leave all our clothes and utensils behind – everything. I was very scared,” Helena says.

“I have never been to school because there is nobody to pay the fees. If I could change one thing about my life it would be to go to school.”

Kwanye, 16, Nigeria


The crisis affecting the Lake Chad Basin is one of the most severe humanitarian emergencies in the world, and the brutal conflict has had a far-reaching impact on girls’ lives. They’ve lost loved ones, been denied their rights to an education and healthcare, and many have been forced into early marriage and teenage pregnancy.

For Kwanye, the crisis meant having to drop out of education because girls were being kidnapped from her school. "I had good grades, friends and was happy at school before the crisis,” she says.

Basma in the Azraq refugee camp

'Our journey to school could be made safer'

13-year-old Basma left Syria when she was 9 years old. She lives with her family in the Azraq refugee camp.

"There is a very long walk between the school and our shelter. I don't feel safe. We get harassed by the older boys," she explains. 

"Some parents stop their daughters going to school because of their worry of harassment. They marry their daughters off to protect them. I know a girl aged 14 who is now married, her husband is 18."

A girl prepares a meal in her tent, Bangladesh
Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh is one of the largest refugee camps in the world. With their families fearful for their safety, many Rohingya girls are confined to their shelters all day.


During a crisis, education is transformative for girls. It offers a safe space to learn and recover from the trauma they’ve experienced – but crises are placing this in jeopardy.

Momentum around the issue is growing. The UK Government has announced £515 million for global education, building on their £85 million pledge for the Education Cannot Wait Fund. This will provide vital schooling to millions of girls whose lives have been torn apart by conflict and disaster, including those in the Sahel region of Africa – one of the worst places in the world for girls seeking an education. Now we have to make sure these funds reach the girls who need them most.

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