09/03/2015, 00.00
MIDDLE EAST
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Wars in the Middle East and North Africa have deprived 13 million children of the right to an education

UN agency finds that some 9,000 schools have been destroyed in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya alone. The damage is not only physical. An entire generation is feeling “despair”. Over the next few months, more than half of children will not be able to go to school. Iraqi priest calls for education for refugee children.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The UN children's fund, UNICEF, says that war in the Middle East and North Africa has deprived more than 13 million children of the right to an education and the possibility of going to school because of destroyed or damaged facilities.

The report indicates that in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, almost 9,000 schools cannot be used for education.

For Peter Salama, regional director for UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa, "The destructive impact of conflict is being felt by children right across the region.” And "It's not just the physical damage being done to schools, but the despir felt by a generation of schoolchildren who see their hopes and futures shattered."

The 13.7 million who are not going to school represents about 40 per cent of the school-age children in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. Now the UN fears that the figure could top 50 per cent in the coming months.

According to UNICEF, 214 attacks on schools were reported in 2014 in Syria, Iraq, Libya, the Palestinian territories, Sudan and Yemen.

In Syria, one in four schools have shut since March 2011 when the civil war broke out, affecting more than two million children.

Students have had to stay away from schools and thousands of teachers have had to abandon their posts for fear of being killed, abducted or arrested on any pretext.

In Iraq, Christian and Yazidi children have been denied an education after they were forced to flee with their families from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain when the Islamic State group seized those areas, said Fr Samir Youssef, a Chaldean priest from Mosul who has been parish priest in Inshke since 2009, in the diocese of Amadiya-Dohuc, and serving five villages.

The clergyman appears in Adopt a Christian from Mosul, a video that highlights the fate of refugees persecuted by Jihadis, and is part of a campaign AsiaNews undertook to help them.

About 350 Yazidi and 85 Christian refugee families now live in his area, not to mention scores of Muslim families. Last year, “80 per cent of the children missed a year of school,” Fr Youssef said.

Now, he hopes to “raise the money to pay for the kids to take the bus to go to school in town because there are no schools in the villages.”

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