Malala highlights education needs of Iraq's displaced children

Nobel Peace Prize winner says access to education is needed to protect displaced children both now and in the future

Malala and Anwar Ahmad Ayesh at a school in Hasansham camp.  © UNHCR/Cengiz Yar

HASANSHAM, Iraq – During her first visit to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai on Tuesday called for world leaders to invest in education for children in conflict stricken countries.

“Education cannot be ignored. Especially for countries that are going through conflict. Education is a basic human right. Every world leader gives their child education so let’s give it to these children,” she said during a visit to a camp for Iraqis displaced during the fighting to retake Mosul.

“It’s important to speak out for internally displaced girls because I was displaced for three months, so I know how hard it is to get an education when you don’t have a home,” the girls’ education campaigner and UN Messenger of Peace said.

"I know how hard it is to get an education when you don’t have a home."

Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her work championing education rights for children. In her native Pakistan, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman after speaking out on the importance of girls’ education.

Highlighting the needs of displaced Iraqis in Hasansham U3 camp, home to 7,600 Iraqis displaced by the conflict in Mosul, Malala told UNHCR that the loss of education for young people is one of the worst losses in conflict, and that education can protect children, particularly girls. “Education is necessary to protect children both now and in the future,” she said.

More than 900,000 people have been displaced by the fight to retake Mosul from extremists. Some have since returned home, but many are still sheltering in UNHCR-built camps on the outskirts of Mosul, renting, staying with friends or family or living in war-damaged buildings.

Malala says education is needed to protect displaced children (Houssam Hariri, camera / Rima Cherri, producer)

There are more than three million displaced Iraqis throughout the country, including around 350,000 children who are not enrolled in school, which is almost half of all those of school age.

Displaced children studying in camps face extra challenges such as the soaring summer temperatures and the difficulty of studying inside tents with a shortage of books, stationary and limited sanitary facilities.

Hasansham U3 camp has a primary and secondary school housed in a tent that runs in shifts. In the camp there are currently 1,115 primary school children and 425 secondary school children enrolled.

Malala praised UNHCR’s work supporting displaced families in Iraq, but highlighted a lack of funding. “We need to support the organisations working here by giving a little donation or some support on social media. Let’s speak up for these children,” she said.

Malala listens to Anwar Ahmad Ayesh talk about her experiences.  © UNHCR/Cengiz Yar

Malala visited the tent of student Anwar Ahmad Ayesh, 13, whose family fled violence and bombing in western Mosul in April. Anwar's father was killed by extremists and like many other children in the city during their three-year rule, she did not attend school. Instead, she would wake up every day hopeful that their problems would soon be over.

“I used Malala as a source of hope and inspiration to overcome my difficulties. I knew that one day I would be able to go back to school,” she said.

To cover UNHCR’s overall funding requirements, USD 126 million is urgently needed to meet the critical needs of vulnerable children, women and men and to continue to provide protection, shelter, camp coordination, management and assistance to the displaced and those seeking to return home.