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UNHCR and Lebara Helping Displaced Children Access Education


By: Claire Palmer, UNHCR London

Lebara, one of Europe’s leading telecommunications operators for migrant communities, has partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to support vital education and protection measures to children in Colombia, Ghana, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Turkey.

In August 2011 the Lebara Foundation launched its 10th anniversary charity campaign by donating EUR 600,000 to UNHCR in order to help over 100,000 refugee and forcibly displaced children around the world. Claire Palmer, UNHCR London’s Private Sector Fundraising Associate, negotiated directly with Lebara to raise funds through its campaign by donating a percentage of its customer mobile top-ups over a three month period.

The Lebara Foundation, the non-profit philanthropic arm of Lebara, aims to establish partnerships with key agencies to deliver high-quality services for children who are affected by conflict and poverty by helping them to increase access to education, shelter, food and clean water. The partnership between UNHCR and Lebara focuses on a providing a number of education measures in the above mentioned countries. For example, the donation contributed to school-related costs such as uniforms, transport and books. In Colombia, the funds aimed to help some 27,000 vulnerable children with financial support for scholarships and improved access to educational facilities. The donation was used to enhance community support for vulnerable children in the Philippines and improve monitoring and reporting of education information in Turkey. In all 6 countries, there were increased enrollment rates in primary education, particularly for girls, which is crucial to achieving empowerment.

Notwithstanding the progress made from Lebara’s sizable donation, there still persist challenges to the right of education for vulnerable children. One third of the world’s refugee children are missing out on primary education, and three out of four do not have access to secondary education.

In addition, financial assistance from Lebara has been integral to other UNHCR projects. For instance, the funds have been used to provide international protection for new asylum seekers and refugees in India through prompt and accurate registration and by immediate identification and referral of vulnerable cases to UNHCR. Since 2008 the number of asylum seekers approaching UNHCR has continued to rise. This places resource constraints on the office to deliver timely international protection to individual refugees and asylum-seekers pending Refugee Status Determination (RSD) through efficient registration. Effective reception and registration of refugees and asylum-seekers are key protection tools for UNHCR and allows UNHCR to assess individuals of concern and determine their individual protection needs. This ensures greater access to basic services and helps prioritize those with acute needs such as victims of sexual and gender based violence. While RSD systems have been improved, there are still a long waiting times.

As 97 percent of UNHCR’s funding comes from voluntary contributions and grant organizations, the support of generous partners such as Lebara is essential to help the world’s most vulnerable peoples and strengthen education as a protection tool.

More details on the Lebara grant and projects can be found at For additional information, please contact Jerome Nhan.