The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced the appointment of Syrian refugee Muzoon Almellehan as its newest and youngest Goodwill Ambassador. The appointment, which came on the eve of World Refugee Day, makes 19-year-old female education activist Muzoon the first person with official refugee status to become an Ambassador for Unicef, Xinhua news agency reported. Muzoon, who received support from Unicef while living in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, follows in the footsteps of the late Audrey Hepburn, a Goodwill Ambassador who was also supported by Unicef as a child.
“Even as a child, I knew that education was the key to my future, so when I fled Syria, the only belongings I took with me were my school books,” said Muzoon. “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.” On World Refugee Day, observed every year on June 20, the international community commemorates the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. This year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee.
Muzoon fled the conflict in Syria along with her family in 2013, living as refugee for three years in Jordan before being resettled in Britain. It was during her 18 months in the Za’atari camp that she began advocating for children’s access to education, particularly for girls. Muzoon recently travelled with Unicef to Chad, a country where nearly three times as many girls as boys of primary school age in conflict areas are missing out on education, the UN agency said in a press release.
Since her return, Muzoon has been working to promote understanding of the challenges children affected and uprooted by conflict face in accessing education. An estimated 25 million children of primary and secondary school are out of school in conflict zones. Education in emergencies is severely underfunded. Since 2010, less than two per cent of humanitarian funding has been spent on education. About $8.5 billion are needed annually to close this gap, Unicef said.