U.N. spotlights Iraqi refugee kids
( AP ) - The United Nations asked Friday for $129 million to educate tens of thousands of Iraqi children who fled to neighboring countries to escape Iraq's violence.
Syria and Jordan need money to expand overcrowded schools, train teachers, cover school fees and provide books and other material for over 150,000 children who are not in school, two U.N. bodies said.
About 500,000 school-age Iraqis live in the region as refugees, said Judy Cheng-Hopkins, the U.N. refugee agency's head of operations.
"Many have no access to school," she said. "The facilities are fully over-stretched."
The joint program with the U.N. Children's Fund also aims to help 2,000 Iraqi children in Egypt, 1,500 in Lebanon and 1,500 in other Middle East countries when the new terms start in a month.
More than 2 million Iraqis are refugees, according to the United Nations.
The two agencies said barely 10 percent of the estimated 300,000 Iraqi school-age children in Syria go to school. At least 50,000 more do not attend school in Jordan.
Cheng-Hopkins said donor countries and organizations must come forward with funds. "Otherwise we would be left with a whole generation of uneducated and possibly alienated youth," she said.
Pierrette Vu Thi, deputy-director for UNICEF's emergency programs, said many children cannot afford school fees and uniforms, while others must work to earn money for their families.
Sometimes classrooms are simply full, she said.
"Schooling is a primary concern in all emergency situations because it can help restore a sense of normalcy to the lives of children and can help them overcome psychological and other forms of distress," she said.
The program will offer "catch-up classes" for some children who missed three years of schooling, she said. The curriculum will be the same as for local children, which should help integration, Vu Thi said.