Pakistani teen activist Malala Yousafzai rededicated herself to fighting for education rights after being shot by the Taliban for her activism, declaring after a successful surgery that “God has given me this new life.”
Now she’s using that “new life” and her status as a leading activist and Nobel peace prize nominee to aid some of the world’s most desperate people: those displaced by the 30-month-old Syrian civil war.
Along with United Nations Special Envoy and former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the rights organization, A World at School, Yousafzai committed to providing education and food to 300,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanese schools. The $500 million, three-year plan is the largest humanitarian effort toward Syria to date.
As Syria’s neighbor to the west, Lebanon has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis. More than 700,000 Syrians are gathered there, representing nearly one out of every five people in Lebanon.
The civil war has displaced a third of Syria’s total population and killed more than 100,000 people.
According to the United Nations, 40% of Syrian students in grades one through nine have dropped out of school in the past year. The number of child refugees in Lebanon is expected to reach a half a million by the end of the year.
Yousafzai and Brown have called on the international community to contribute an additional $500 million to education efforts over the next three years. Education is usually among the least-funded priorities in humanitarian crises. The new initiative is set to be finalized during a Sept. 23 meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
Before announcing the initiative over the weekend, Yousafzai talked with two 15-year-old Syrian girls over Skype. The twin sisters, Zahra and Om Kolthoum Katou, sought refuge in Lebanon after leaving their home in Aleppo a year ago.
“Our school in Aleppo is shut,” the girls told Yousafzai. “There was fighting and bombing around the building and we could no longer go there to learn. We were so scared. It was a terrible situation but we want to continue our education. We don’t want it to stop.”
They told Yousafzai of their dream to finish school and become doctors.
“I totally support you,” Yousafzai reportedly told them. “You are very brave. I believe that you will get your education [and] that you will go to school—and that no one can stop you.”
“One day you will be my doctor and I will be you patient,” she said.
Reporting contributed by Pakistan Today.