The United Nations has voiced alarm over the “destructive impact” of the deadly wars on children’s education in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), saying violence has forced at least 13 million kids out of schools there.
In a report released on Thursday on threats to the education system in six violence-torn countries and territories across the region, the United Nation’s children fund UNICEF warned that “the hopes of a generation” would be dashed should kids fail to return to classrooms in conflict zones of both regions.
Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Palestinian territories in the Middle East as well as Sudan and Libya in North Africa were the main countries the report focused on.
Over 8,850 schools are no longer usable due to the ongoing political instability and violence, said the report.
Peter Salama, the regional director for UNICEF in the MENA region, told AFP that “the destructive impact of conflict is being felt by children right across the region.”
“It’s not just the physical damage being done to schools, but the despair felt by a generation of schoolchildren who see their hopes and futures shattered,” he added.
According to the UN, one in four schools was closed this school year due to violence.
“Even those Syrian teachers who have ended up as refugees in other countries have faced obstacles which prevent them from working,” said the report, adding more than 52,000 teachers have left their posts.
UNICEF said that violence in Iraq has taken a heavy toll on the schooling of at least 950,000 children.
Iraq and Syria have been grappling with a spike in violence fueled by Takfiri terror groups, particularly Daesh, which controls swathes of land in both Arab states.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Saudi military has been pounding neighboring Yemen with fatal air raids over the past five months. Civilians as well as the country’s infrastructure have been the main target of Riyadh’s strikes.
The Saudi military campaign has led to the closure of hundreds of schools and colleges in Yemen since late March, according to the report.
UNICEF also said over 280 schools had been damaged and eight “completely destroyed” in the Tel Aviv regime’s 2014 war on the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip that left over 2,200 people dead.
In Libya, which is suffering from rising violence after the 2011 overthrow of former dictator Moamar Qaddafi, more than half of those displaced say their children cannot attend classes, while the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur and South Kordofan has also had a severe impact on the country’s creaking school infrastructure, the report said.