11/09/2015 11:49 BST | Updated 11/09/2016 06:12 BST

The Week That Was - Three-Year-Olds on the Beach and Four-Year-Olds on the Doorstep

This week, my social media feed has been dominated by two images; four-year-old children on the doorstep - ready for their first day at school, and a three-year-old's body on a beach. The same images shared by the same people on consecutive days. Parents posting their ultimate image of hope and pride alongside fear and shame.

Mr and Mrs Kurdi would likely have been no different. Worldwide, parents' aspirations have more in common than in contrast. It's ambitions for our children that drive decisions - moving catchment area, moving continent - to build the best life possible.

Existence isn't enough.

But that is what is (barely) being offered to the 4 million Syrian refugees who have fled the country. The vast majority of them - 3.5 million people - have found refuge and remain within the region. Lebanon alone has welcomed 1 million people, who now represent 25% of the population. A remarkable response. But what's available for these families is a short-term fix; food, water and shelter. We're offering 100-day provisions in a crisis that is approaching the half-decade mark.

What's needed is a more sustainable solution; recognising and responding to parents' priorities. To protect, to earn and to enable their children to learn.

Syria once had one of the world's highest literacy rates. The gap-toothed smiles of children ready for their first day of school would have been replicated there. But for the past four years, classrooms have been closed. Teachers have fled. Schools bombed.

Today, well over a million Syrian children are being denied an education. They will become a lost generation ... Unless there is a shift in support. Firstly, we need commitment from the United Nations and governments globally that every refugee child of school age is provided with access to education. We must leave no one behind. This is the generation that will, hopefully, one day rebuild Syria. They cannot do that if they are illiterate, innumerate and broken. Secondly, if we truly care about making the most meaningful difference to the lives of Syrian refugees, we must broaden our gaze, and support, beyond European borders.

Just 37% of the funding required to respond to the needs of Syrian refugees has been committed for 2015. Additional funds are urgently needed in the region and should prioritise providing people with the chance not only to survive, but to thrive. Deliver this and we reduce the drivers of families fleeing the region to Europe and we transition refugees from recipients of aid to parents who can earn a living and support their families.

The old school report adage is more pressing than ever: we 'must try harder'. To fail to do so is to fail the futures of each and every one of the two million Syrian child refugees.


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