Canada has pledged $8 million to help educate children fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq, with a contribution to extend UNICEF's "No Lost Generation" campaign in Iraq.
International Development Minister Christian Paradis met with Anthony Lake, the executive director of UNICEF, and the heads of other NGOs in Ottawa Friday to discuss Canada's response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the extremist group ISIS in Iraq as well as the ongoing civil war in Syria.
"We need to ensure that no matter what the context, that no child is left behind," Paradis said.
UNICEF hopes to reach up to 200,000 at-risk children and help them continue their education despite having fled their homes. The programming also tries to help meet the psychological and social needs of children in conflict zones.
"No Lost Generation" was launched a year ago in Syria and its neighbouring countries to try to alleviate the impact of the humanitarian crisis on Syrian youth, who risk growing up without the skills they need to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the brutal violence.
"Who will these children be when they grow up? Will they have the education and the skills to be able to contribute to the rebuilding of their societies? Will they have in their hearts a spirit of reconciliation? Or will there be, rather than that, a thirst for revenge?" Lake said.
"That is why it is so incredibly important that we provide the education and the counselling for these children so they do not become... a lost generation," he told reporters.
900,000 displaced children
In January, Canada pledged $50 million in funding for education and child protection activities in support of the campaign.
The United Nations estimates that nearly 900,000 have been affected by the crisis in Iraq, among the nearly 1.8 million displaced people across the country — one of the largest cases of international displacement in the world, the government says.
Canada's assistance will help establish schools, train teachers and provide basic supplies. It will also help establish safe places for children in refugee camps and offer them sports or cultural activities as well as classes.
Funding also helps train social workers to manage the special needs of vulnerable children, including those separated from their families in the conflict.
Paradis said that without programs like UNICEF's, the only option displaced children in conflict zones like this have is to join the fight.
Harper pledged both aid and combat
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada's combat mission to Iraq, the government also pledged $10 million to provide services and treatment for Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have been victims of sexual abuse.
Paradis reiterated Canada's commitment to not only a combat mission in Iraq, but also humanitarian aid.
"It's not either/or. We have to be active on both sides. And we have to degrade ISIL to make sure that can reach more and more people in need, because otherwise it's not feasible," he said.
The minister said comparing today's conflict with the war in Iraq in 2003 is "comparing apples and oranges."
Prior to today's announcement, Canada had committed $28.9 million to help Iraqis and Syrians affected and displaced by the violence from ISIS extremists.
The Canadian government delivers its aid through partners such as UN humanitarian agencies, the Red Cross and other humanitarian aid organizations like those meeting with Paradis in Ottawa Friday.
The projects focus on providing health care, shelter, education and food for refugees and other displaced civilians in northern Iraq.