“Ahlan Simsim” is an early childhood development (ECD) initiative in the Middle East, launched by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Sesame Workshop in 2018. According to David Miliband, President and CEO of the IRC, it is the world’s largest early childhood development program in a humanitarian setting. In December 2022 Ahlan Simsim passed a significant milestone: it has now reached more than one million children with direct services across Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

On top of this, 23 million children have been reached across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by Ahlan Simsim’s award-winning TV program of the same name, which means “Welcome Sesame” in Arabic.

The Ahlan Simsim program brings early learning and nurturing care to children and host communities affected by displacement, reaching families wherever they are—from classrooms and health clinics to TVs and mobile devices—with vital educational resources that children need to thrive. The program is also designed to be scalable, changing the way that humanitarian systems respond to the needs of young children.

The first five years of a child’s life are pivotal for their cognitive and social-emotional development. However, for millions of children across the Middle East region and their families, those crucial years have been marred by the violence and trauma of displacement. Ahlan Simsim meets this challenge head-on, providing critical services immediately while also strengthening the national systems that support children in the long term, through partnerships with local partners and Ministries of Health, Education and Social Development.

“The milestone of the millionth child reached through direct services, alongside the 23 million children through the Ahlan Simsim (television) show, is a moment of pride, but also a time to recommit to the goal of helping all children affected by war survive, recover and gain control of their futures”, said Milliband. “…This is real action to prevent a lost generation of children in the Middle East.”


Related links

• For more information on the Ahlan Simsim’s TV program, see https://ahlansimsim.org/