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Malala Uses Her 18th Birthday to Highlight the Plight of Syrian Refugees

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Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai took the occasion of her 18th birthday Saturday to ask world leaders to stop “failing the Syrian people.”

Yousafzai spent her birthday near the Syrian border in Lebanon overseeing the opening of the Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School, aimed at providing access to education for more than 200 Syrian refugee girls.

“I am honored to mark my 18th birthday with the brave and inspiring girls of Syria,” Yousafzai said in a statement. “On this day, I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region and the world–you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria’s children. This is a heartbreaking tragedy–the world’s worst refugee crisis in decades.”

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The Malala Fund also announced a grant of $250,000 toward UNICEF and UNHCR efforts to meet funding shortfalls for girls’ schools in a Jordanian refugee camp.

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Write to Tanya Basu at tanya.basu@time.com