Literacy is a basic human right and for good reason. It saves lives. Illiteracy directly affects an individual’s health and wellbeing. For example, women who can read are four times as likely to know how to protect themselves from HIV infection than those who can’t. Similarly a child is 50% more likely to reach the age of six if their mother can read.

Literacy empowers people to lift themselves out of poverty. It provides them with opportunities to develop employable skills. Improving the literacy of a population has a positive impact on the economic prosperity at the country level.

An educated population is proven to be a more engaged. Increased adult literacy rates translate into increased political involvement, community action initiatives and union membership. This engagement in turn leads to stronger democracies and more stable communities.

It is no wonder, then, that literacy training is central to our work in every region where we operate. Take our work with South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. South Sudan has some of the worst literacy rates in the world and forced migration only makes this problem worse. Many of the children we meet have missed years of school because of the war. To help them catch up, we provide what we call ‘Accelerated Learning’ classes. These allow a student to cover two years’ worth of study in half the time. It means that they will more quickly be able to enter formal education and hopefully graduate high school.

This was the case for Peter. He is a 19 year old refugee from South Sudan who lost both his parents in the war when he was 17. Orphaned and forced to flee, Peter missed two years of school. “I even resorted to drinking to cope with the stress,” he told us. Peter’s luck changed when he met War Child’s Community Education Committee who registered and enrolled him in the accelerated learning program.

“I am happy to say that my performance in class has improved since I joined and I have stopped drinking. I am a member of the Adolescents’ Club. I thank War Child for this golden opportunity.”

There are thousands of young people like Peter who are searching for an opportunity to learn to read and write. Celebrate the power of reading this International Literacy Day by making a donation to help spread the word.

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