WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Actress and human rights activist Angelina Jolie urged the international community on Tuesday to make educating Iraqi children a greater priority.
“The best way to heal children of conflict from trauma is to have them focus on their future,” Jolie told the Council on Foreign Relations.
Jolie, who visited Iraq in August, and other humanitarian workers discussed how to help displaced Iraqi children regain some sense of normalcy and stability through education.
The schooling of refugee children is a frequent casualty of violence and political unrest, said Gene Sperling, an economic adviser to former President Bill Clinton who co-chairs the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict with Jolie.
“Every child has a right to education and conflict is not a reason to ignore that,” Jolie said.
The Hollywood actress has visited more than 20 humanitarian hot spots, including Iraq and Sudan’s Darfur region, since becoming a good will U.N. ambassador in 2001.
The Iraq war has produced 4.5 million refugees and internally displaced people. Of those who have fled the country, about 1.5 million are now in neighboring Syria, while hundreds of thousands have relocated to Jordan and Lebanon.
Speakers at the event recommended building more schools and providing textbooks inside Iraq and urged more support for governments hosting Iraqi refugees.
Syria and Jordan have stretched their limited budgets to educate some Iraqi children, but they need help to accommodate the massive influx of students, said George Rupp, president and chief executive officer of the International Rescue Committee.
Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe