UNITED NATIONS, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Monday announced the appointment of Muzoon Almellehan, a 19-year-old female education activist and Syrian refugee, as its newest and youngest Goodwill Ambassador.
The appointment, which came on the eve of World Refugee Day, makes Muzoon the first person with official refugee status to become an Ambassador for UNICEF.
Muzoon, who received support from UNICEF while living in Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, follows in the footsteps of the late Audrey Hepburn, a Goodwill Ambassador who was also supported by UNICEF as a child.
"Even as a child, I knew that education was the key to my future, so when I fled Syria, the only belongings I took with me were my school books," said Muzoon. "As a refugee, I saw what happens when children are forced into early marriage or manual labor -- they lose out on education and they lose out on possibilities for the future."
On World Refugee Day, observed every year on June 20, the international community commemorates the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. This year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee.
"That's why I am proud to be working with UNICEF to help give these children a voice and to get them into school," she said.
Muzoon fled the conflict in Syria along with her family in 2013, living as refugee for three years in Jordan before being resettled in the United Kingdom. It was during her 18 months in the Za'atari camp that she began advocating for children's access to education, particularly for girls.
"Muzoon's story of bravery and fortitude inspires us all. We are very proud she will now become an Ambassador for UNICEF and children around the world," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth.
Muzoon recently travelled with UNICEF to Chad, a country where nearly three times as many girls as boys of primary school age in conflict areas are missing out on education, the UN agency said in a press release, adding that she met with children forced out of school due to the Boko Haram conflict in the Lake Chad region.
Since her return, Muzoon has been working to promote understanding of the challenges children affected and uprooted by conflict face in accessing education.
An estimated 25 million children of primary and secondary school are out of school in conflict zones. For children living as refugees, only half are enrolled in primary school and less than a quarter are enrolled in secondary school.
Education in emergencies is severely underfunded. Since 2010, less than two percent of humanitarian funding has been spent on education. About 8.5 billion U.S. dollars are needed annually to close this gap, UNICEF said.