A nine-year-old girl made famous for tweeting about the devastation of the Syrian war from within under-siege Aleppo has warned of a lost generation of school children in her country.
Bana Alabed said millions of her generation had grown up knowing nothing but death and destruction and now need urgent help.
The youngster first came to the world’s attention as she regularly tweeted about the siege in late 2016 by forces backed by President Bashar Al Assad.
Her reports, aided by her English-speaking mother, documented frequent air strikes as well her family’s increasing hunger and desperation.
“The world is not doing enough for education in Syria and that means a lost generation of children,” Bana told a conference on Sunday.
“Education is the last hope for Syria. War has destroyed everything in my country and education is one of them.
“Millions of children haven’t had a good education. Many never went to school while others have to work for their families so they can get food.
“They want to be teachers or doctors but without education they won’t be anything.”
Bana spoke out about the need for access to education in Syria at the two-day Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.
The youngster, now a campaigner for peace, called on the international community to focus efforts on rebuilding schools.
Intense fighting during the battle for Aleppo led to large-scale destruction as indiscriminate shelling hit civilian areas.
Schools and hospitals were also deliberately targeted in a complex conflict involving multiple state entities and allegiances.
In December 2016, Bana was successfully evacuated from the country to Turkey, where she now lives.
She has since written a book, entitled Dear World: A Syrian Girl's Story of War and Plea for Peace, which chronicles her experience of the civil war.
“I would like to thank JK Rowling for her support,” said the youngster, referring to the time the author
sent her an ebook copy of the Harry Potter series during Aleppo's seige.
“I love magic and she gave me that magic,” she said. “She was the first one who gave me a present.
“I like Harry Potter, not because he is the main character but because he is gentle and helpful. He loves his friends and family.
“My hero is someone who teaches me to be brave and believe in myself to change the world.
“My heroes are children who are suffering from hunger and cold. My heroes are children who are dying from war.
“My heroes are children who are struggling to live their lives.”
Bana went on to describe how fighting for survival in war-torn Syria had pushed her family to its limits.
“I was always seeing children dying in front of my eyes and I was scared to lose one of my family members," she said.
“I was sick, there were no hospitals or medicine. I had no water for two days. We lived in a siege. Many children are still suffering there.
“Every child deserves to live in peace. War teaches us that peace is the most important thing in our lives. Peace is the most powerful thing in the world.”