LEGO pledges £11.5m to support vulnerable children in Afghanistan and Haiti

The LEGO Group owners KIRKBI and the LEGO Foundation have announced an £11.5m grant to support vulnerable children in Haiti and Afghanistan.

That’s equivalent to 100m DKK, 85% of which will be split across UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency, and Education Cannot Wait. The remaining 15m DKK will then be distributed according to need as environmental and political emergencies in Haiti and Afghanistan unfold.

According to relief organisation World Vision, nearly half Afghanistan’s population – including 8.2 million children – required ‘humanitarian and protection assistance’ prior to the recent political crisis. That number has since been exacerbated by the Taliban seizing power following the withdrawal of foreign troops, with huge numbers of displaced people fleeing the country.

In Haiti, meanwhile, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake – followed by Tropical Storm Grace – has left 500,000 children without access to safe water, shelter, nutrition or healthcare. As in Afghanistan, that crisis has been compounded further by the ongoing pandemic.

“The humanitarian crises that are happening in Haiti and Afghanistan are unimaginable and only intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, fourth-generation representative of the LEGO Group’s owner family and Chair of the Governing Board of the LEGO Foundation. “Both require a response that focuses attention on the immediate and long-term impacts.

“KIRKBI and the LEGO Foundation, as the owners of the LEGO Group, have an immense opportunity to respond to the crises. With the grant, we hope to take a targeted approach to support the needs of the people of Haiti and Afghanistan – not least the children who are in urgent need of protection assistance.”

LEGO Foundation grant Haiti

LEGO Foundation CEO John Goodwin says that the grants will focus on providing learning and education to kids currently affected by the crises in Afghanistan and Haiti, ensuring they have the opportunity to develop critical skills.

“We know that by giving attention to young children and their continued access to learning in crisis settings, especially their early stimulation needs, we can make a big positive difference to them immediately and in the long-term,” he explained.

“Together, we hope to provide more children with access to early childhood and education services needed to develop skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving. Social and emotional skills are vital for children to overcome the stressors caused by crisis situations, and to build resilience and adapt to the needs of the rapidly changing world.”

According to UNICEF, more than 2 million girls are currently out of school in Afghanistan, and government figures suggest roughly 7,000 schools have no building. Amnesty International also reports that ‘large numbers of children continued to be pressed into forced labour or begging on the streets’.

“As a global fund dedicated to education in emergencies, our First Emergency Response is one of impatience,” added Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Education cannot wait until the emergency is over. Thanks to the rapid support by the LEGO Foundation we can now establish safe learning spaces for children, and provide mental health and psychological social support without delay.

“Early Childhood Education needs are central to our response, alongside other components of quality education. In Afghanistan, this additional funding will enable us to continue implementing community-based education to target the most vulnerable children, with an emphasis on girls.”

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Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then. You can follow me on Twitter at @brfa_chris.

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