LONDON: Malala Yousafzai told world leaders they were failing Syria's children, as the Nobel Peace Prize winner spent her 18th birthday Sunday on the Syrian border.
As she became an adult, the teenager, who was shot by militants in her native Pakistan for campaigning for girls' rights, opened a school for more than 200 Syrian girls living in refugee camps in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
Malala Yousafzai (L) cuts a ribbon near Noura Jumblatt (R), founder of the NGO Kayany Foundation, at a school for Syrian refugee girls, built by the foundation, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley July 12, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
The Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School will offer education and skills training to girls aged 14 to 18.
Read: Malala Fund: AJK govt, UNESCO to work for girls education
"I am honoured to mark my 18th birthday with the brave and inspiring girls of Syria," Yousafzai said in a statement received in London.
"I am here on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict.
Malala Yousafzai (C) poses with girls for a picture at a school for Syrian refugee girls, built by the NGO Kayany Foundation, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley July 12, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
"Their courage and dedication to continue their schooling in difficult conditions inspires people around the world and it is our duty to stand by them.
Read: Education rights activist: Malala gets Blue Heart award
"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."
Lebanon is hosting nearly 1.2 million registered Syrian refugees, though the total number in the country may be even higher.
The influx has placed strains on Lebanon, which has just four million citizens.
The Lebanese government has prevented the establishment of official refugee camps, giving rise to informal shanties known as "tented settlements" in rural areas.
Malala was flown to Britain for treatment after the Taliban tried to kill her in October 2012, and now lives permanently in Britain with her family.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ