Middle East

More than half UN schools in Middle East targeted in conflicts

A girl shows a sniper's bullet found in her schoolyard in rebel-held Douma, a suburb of Damascus, 12 April 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Schools in Syria have found themselves on the front line of the civil war

Nearly half the schools run by the UN in the Middle East have been attacked, damaged or rendered inoperable in the past five years, according to a new report obtained by the BBC.

The report by UNRWA, the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees, warns that the education of thousands of children has been disrupted.

More than 300 UN schools were attacked or shut down.

In Syria, more than half of the UNWRA schools are no longer in use.

Some are destroyed, some cut off by fighting, others are shelters for displaced families.

Most schools have been looted and more than 400 teachers have fled Syria.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Schools like this one being spruced up in Gaza City last month are run by UNWRA

UN schools in the Middle East

  • UNWRA runs 692 elementary and preparatory schools in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan and Syria; and 8 secondary schools in Lebanon
  • Half a million Palestinian refugee children receive free education from UNRWA
  • At least 302 (or 44%) of UNWRA schools were directly affected by armed conflict or violence in the past five years

Source: UNWRA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East)

UNWRA head Pierre Kraehenbuehl called on all warring parties to respect the civilian character of schools, and to spare the lives of children, teachers, and aid workers.

The report emphasises how schools can provide stability and hope for children but this disruption has been having a profound impact.

The document, which also looks at damage to schools in Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, will be presented on Monday at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul where education will be a special focus.

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