Malala
Malala Yousafzai being guided by Syrian refugee Muzoon Almellehan at the UNICEF school in the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan in July 2015. Malala celebrated her 18th birthday with Muzoon, a student and education activist in the refugee camp  Malin Fezehai—HUMAN/Malala Fund

Malala: The World's Response to Refugees Has Been Pitiful

Sep 09, 2015
Ideas
Malala Yousafzai is an education activist from Pakistan.

Correction appended Sept. 10, 2015.

After seeing the small body of Aylan Kurdi washed ashore in Turkey, I have prayed every day that his death will not be in vain. I have been asking myself: Is this the moment that our politicians will finally see that the children of Syria are the same as any other children? Will they finally acknowledge that people fleeing conflict have the right to be protected?

Syria’s refugees have committed no crime that justifies their suffering. They are doing what anyone would do if their home were no longer safe. I myself know what it is to have to leave your home, when my family was forced to leave our home in Swat Valley because of conflict and terrorism in 2009. We lived for three months as internally displaced people (IDPs). That is quite a short time compared to many refugees — but I know very well how hard it is to live like that, and how desperate is the desire of parents to find a safe place for their children to call home.

I am distressed that most of our leaders are failing to meet this moral challenge, and I hope more of them will follow the example of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has allowed Syrian refugees who arrive in Germany to stay and apply for asylum. I have also been very moved by the thousands of people who have stood in train stations and at checkpoints, welcoming refugees to their new homes with food and clothing.

Greece Migrants
Syrian and Afghan refugees warm themselves and dry their clothes around a fire after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, early on Oct. 7, 2015.Muhammed Muheisen—AP
Greece Migrants
migrant refugee greece
refugees migrants Lesbos Greek islands
Syrian refugees Lesbos Greece
migrants refugees Lesbos
Croatia Migrants
Croatia Migrants
migrants hungary serbia border clash
migrants serbia
Hungary Serbia border
refugees migrants Lesbos
refugees migrants Hungary
Hungary Migrants refugees children
refugees migrants macedonia
refugees migrants Morahalom Hungary
syrian refugee migrant hungary
refugees migrants Serbia
refugee migrant Lesbos
syrian refugees migrants greek coast guard
syrian refugees migrants greek coast guard
Greece Migrants
Greece Migrants
Migrants walk along rail tracks as they arrive to a collection point in the village of Roszke, Hungary
migrant refugees train macedonia
Italy Migrants refugees
Aylan Kurdi boy drowned
Migrant crisis
Migrant crisis
refugees migrants Hungarian-Serbian border
Syrian migrants cross under a fence as they enter Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke
Hungary border fence migrants refugees
syrian migrant refugee girl greece
Macedonian police clash with refugees at blocked border
Calais migrants
Kos Migrants Greece
Syrian and Afghan refugees warm themselves and dry their clothes around a fire after arriving on a dinghy from the Turki
... VIEW MORE

Muhammed Muheisen—AP
1 of 36

Europe’s sudden awakening to the people arriving at its borders is nothing compared with those displaced within Syria and the region. According to the U.N., more than 11 million people have been displaced in total, with more than 7 million inside Syria and 4 million outside the country. About half of the Syrian refugees are children, most of them out of school for months or years. I saw the great need this past July, when I traveled to Lebanon and Jordan for my 18th birthday, meeting with brave girls who have lost their parents, their school and their homes.

The world’s response has been pitiful — only 37% of the U.N.’s response plan for this year has been funded and more than 63% of funding needs are unmet. Food rations for refugees are being cut because nations will not contribute their fair share to help. Entire refugee camps have only one or two schools for children. If we say we care, we must not just use words, but take action.

Every religion and culture has a tradition of helping those in danger and distress. I do not think of us as different, but of all humanity as one country, where every person deserves equal rights, no matter whether they are black or white, man or woman, rich or poor. I hope that our humanity will guide decisions and allow all of us to stand with the millions of Syrian refugees who need our voice and our help more than ever today.

Malala Yousafzai is a student, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founder of the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization that empowers girls globally through education to achieve their potential and be agents of change in their community. The Malala Fund invests in and advocates for girls' secondary education in Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leone and the Syrian border states of Lebanon and Jordan.

Correction: The original version of the article misstated the amount of funding received in the U.N. response plan and the amount of funding needs that are unmet. It was 37% of the U.N.’s response plan for this year that have been funded, and more than 63% of funding needs that are unmet.

Read about changes to Time.com


Ideas
TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.
All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.