UNITED NATIONS -- A new report released to mark the 16th birthday of a Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban for promoting education for girls says 57 million children around the world are not going to school, and half live in conflict-affected countries.
The U.N. education and cultural agency UNESCO and Save the Children released the study ahead of Friday's first public appearance at the United Nations by Malala Yousafzai, who returned to school in March after medical treatment in Britain for injuries she suffered in the October attack.
She will address more than 500 young leaders from around the world at a Youth Assembly organized by General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic and U.N. special envoy for global education Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister.
The U.N. has declared July 12 – her 16th birthday – as "Malala Day."
According to the report, the number of children of primary school age who are not getting an education has fallen from 60 million in 2008 to 57 million in 2011, but during that period the percentage of youth in conflict-affected countries who aren't at primary school rose from 42 percent to 50 percent, UNESCO said.
Save The Children said the report shows that in 2012 there were more than 3,600 documented attacks on education, including violence, torture and intimidation against children and teachers resulting in death or grave injuries, as well as the shelling and bombing of schools and the recruitment of school-aged children by armed groups.
Since the start of the Syria conflict more than two years ago, 3,900 schools have been destroyed, damaged or are occupied for non-educational purposes, the report says.
The report, called "Children Battling To Go To School," found that 95 percent of the 28.5 million children who aren't getting a primary school education live in low and lower-middle income countries – 44 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 19 percent in south and west Asia and 14 percent in the Arab states, UNESCO said.
Girls make up 55 percent of the total and are often the victims of rape and other sexual violence that accompanies armed conflicts, UNESCO said.
"Across many of the world's poorest countries, armed conflict continues to destroy not just school infrastructure, but also the hopes and ambitions of a whole generation of children," UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova said.