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International Leaders Meet In London To Discuss Aid To Syrian Refugees

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Countries pledged $11 billion today for the world's most dire humanitarian crisis - Syria. That happened today at a donor meeting in London. The U.N. secretary-general called the situation in Syria, quote, "as close to hell as we are likely to find on Earth." Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai also attended the meeting with a special plea to world leaders. NPR's Leila Fadel reports.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on nations for the billions needed to help the estimated 11 million Syrians displaced by conflict, including children affected by the war.

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BAN KI-MOON: Families move desperately from one town to another in search of safety. Nearly 1 child in 3 is out of school.

FADEL: And that's why Malala, 18, was at the conference to appeal to world leaders to think not just about today but about tomorrow.

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MALALA YOUSAFZAI: It's important to keep in mind that if we are hoping for peace in Syria, if we are hoping to see Syria rebuilt as a prosperous and developed country, then it's important that we educate its future generation. That's the only hope we have.

FADEL: She sat down with NPR on the sidelines of the conference. In 2012, Malala was shot in Pakistan because of her advocacy on female education. She won a Nobel Peace Prize. Today, her focus is on Syria and the money needed to get the more than 3 million Syrian children affected back in school. She's with Muzoon Almellehan, a 17-year-old Syrian refugee who lived in camps in Jordan for three years before she was resettled in the U.K. with her family two months ago. In all that time, she stayed in school.

MUZOON ALMELLEHAN: We need education because Syria needs us.

FADEL: She fled Daraa, Southwest Syria.

ALMELLEHAN: My dad - he could not go to work. And sometimes, if you want to go to school, that's too dangerous. Also, sometimes it's too difficult to get food.

FADEL: She was lucky enough to be in camps with schools. Many others are not. And today, she had the attention of leaders from around the world. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was there, and the U.S. promised $290 million for education as part of its nearly $1 billion pledge.

ALMELLEHAN: That was important for me and my country - to rise Syrian children, their voices, to the leaders around the world to tell them Syrian children have dreams and can get an education. They are not lost.

FADEL: Not lost, not yet. Some day, she says, she wants to be a journalist to tell the stories of adversity from around the world and to tell the story of her own country. Leila Fadel, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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