Children are on the receiving end of a formidable education and refugee crisis.
We know education is the key to development.
Not only is it a universal right, but also the enabler for all other human rights.
Education has the potential to break the shackles of slavery and pave the way for social, economic, political and gender justice.
In the wake of the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War, the narrative around children is worrying.
The refugee crisis emanating from the Mena region has intensified over the past few years, creating millions of refugees and displaced people.
More than half of the world’s refugees are children.
The top three countries from where refugees hail are Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.
These children are at unprecedented risk of being trafficked and pushed into slavery, sexual exploitation, child marriage and armed conflict, among other forms of violence.
Not so long ago, I visited a Syrian refugee camp near Istanbul.
I was shocked to meet a father who was fixing his 12-year-old daughter’s marriage with a 60-year-old man.
He haplessly told me he had lost his elder 14-year-old daughter. She was stolen.
His younger son worked at an auto workshop.
Only by marrying off his daughter could he ensure her safety.
Is this the world our children deserve? Certainly not.
It’s not all doom and gloom though.
A potential and effective solution can certainly emanate from the Gulf, a land of limitless hope and opportunity.
Through exemplary entrepreneurship and innovation, people in the Gulf have created a paradise in the desert.
I call on the compassionate leaders, governments and businesses in the Gulf to extend support to refugee children and their communities, so they are protected, sheltered and nurtured for a promising tomorrow.
Otherwise, an entire generation could be wiped out.
Amid the refugee crisis, education is also taking a severe hit.
Alarmingly, more than 800 million young people will lack the pre-requisite employment skills by 2030, making them even more susceptible to exploitation.
To accomplish UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in education, investment by low or middle-income countries needs to be scaled up from six to 8.5 per cent of GDP on an average.
Even if the share of education was increased to 20pc of public spending in these countries, a substantial boost in terms of international support would still be required.
Yet globally education gets less than 2pc of the total humanitarian aid.
It is a matter of concern that education’s share in total official development assistance has gone down from 13pc to 10pc over the past decade.
It is therefore imperative for the international community to fulfil promises on aid and assistance, particularly for equitable, inclusive and quality education.
It is the collective moral responsibility and obligation of world leaders to protect children from the scourge of violence and ensure they are free, safe, healthy and educated.
* Kailash Satyarthi is a child welfare activist and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient