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Sesame Street comes to Middle East kids

“They’ve lost parents or brothers or sisters. They’ve lost homes.”

The Sesame Street television show and a leading charity have received a grant to use the Muppets to reach millions of war-affected children in parts of the Middle East.

The Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee (IRC) will focus on children in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq with a local version of Sesame Street, according to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that gave the five-year grant.

The project aims to reach 1.5 million refugee and displaced children up to the age of 8 in those countries with storybooks, toys, games and resources designed for use in homes and in health, outreach and community centres, the IRC said.

More broadly the “Sesame Street” programming, which will teach language, reading and other skills, should reach 9.4 million children throughout the Middle East via television, mobile phones, digital platforms and other means, it said.

Featuring colorful characters such as the Cookie Monster, Big Bird and other Muppets, the long-running Sesame Street is highly regarded for teaching children to read, count and learn colours, along with tackling issues of race, tolerance and death.

“The most famous street in the world is going to spread its message of joy and love and laughter to some of the most vulnerable children in the world,” IRC Chief Executive David Miliband told the Thomson Reuteurs Foundation.

“They’ve lost parents or brothers or sisters. They’ve lost homes. They’ve lost their country.”

Millions of children across the Middle East, ravaged by civil wars and persecution, have been forced to flee their homes, fall behind or not attend school, live in poverty and suffer trauma and danger, according to world aid groups.

Launched in 1969, Sesame Street has won multiple awards for its approach, educational content and message of inclusion.

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