Young Syrian refugee advocating education appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

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UNITED NATIONS, June 19 (APP): In a first, the United Nations
Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has appointed 19-year-old Muzoon Almellehan,
who has been advocating for girls’ education since fleeing war-torn Syria
in 2013, as its newest and youngest Goodwill Ambassador.
“As a refugee, I saw what happens when children are forced into early
marriage or manual labour they lose out on education and they lose out on possibilities
for the future,” Ms. Almellehan — dubbed ‘the Malala
of Syria’ — said, recalling that when she fled, the only belongings
she was able to take with her were her school books.
“I am proud to be working with UNICEF to help give these children a
voice and to get them into school,” she added.
Ms. Almellehan, is also the first person with an official refugee
status to become an Ambassador for the UN agency. Since fleeing her homeland, she
had been living in Jordan for three years, before being resettled in the United Kingdom.
In a press release issued on Monday, UNICEF noted that it was during
her 18 months in the Za’atari camp (in Jordan) that she began advocating
for children’s access to education, particularly for girls.
“Muzoon’s story of bravery and fortitude inspires us all,” said
Justin Forsyth, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, in the release,
adding: “We are very proud she will now become an Ambassador for UNICEF
and children around the world.”
In April this year, Ms. Almellehan travelled to areas affected by
the Boko Haram conflict in the Lake Chad region where she met with
children forced out of school due to the violence.
Since her return, Ms. Almellehan has been working to promote
understanding of the challenges children affected and uprooted by
conflict face in accessing education, noted the UN agency.
According to UNICEF data, an estimated 25 million children of
primary and secondary school are out of school in conflict zones
around the world. For children living as refugees, only half are
enrolled in primary school and less than a quarter are enrolled in
secondary school.
Furthermore, education in emergencies also suffers with severe
underfunding.
Since 2010, less than 2 per cent of humanitarian funding has been
spent on education. At present, some $8.5 billion are needed annually
to close this widening gap.