LONDON – As the third anniversary of the start of Syria’s civil war approaches, there is a race against time to deliver a groundbreaking education project to the conflict’s hardest-hit victims – hundreds of thousands of child refugees.
A shocking three million Syrian children have now been displaced. More than one million of them have fled Syria and are languishing in camps in neighboring countries, particularly Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. These children are now suffering a third winter away from their homes, schools, and friends. Many are separated from their families, and thousands more join the ranks of displaced persons every day in what is becoming the largest humanitarian catastrophe of our time.
But a pathbreaking initiative in Lebanon, involving teachers, aid agencies, and education charities has opened a small window of hope. Amid the chaos of camps, makeshift huts, and destitution, the fight for an important new principle of international aid has begun: even in times of conflict, children must have access to education.
A century and a half ago, the Red Cross established the norm that health care could – and should – be provided even in conflict zones. This principle was carried forward by groups like Médicins sans Frontières, whose doctors have risked their lives for the last four decades to deliver medical care to the world’s most dangerous places.