Groundbreaking Initiative Ahlan Simsim Celebrates Key Milestone of One Million Children Reached by Direct Services

  • About Us
  • Press Room
  • Groundbreaking Initiative Ahlan Simsim Celebrates Key Milestone of One Million Children Reached by Direct Services

Partnership Between Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee Continues Reaching More Children, Families Across the Middle East

December 8, 2022 – New York, NY – Ahlan Simsim, the early childhood development initiative launched in 2018 through a partnership between Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), has now reached one million children with direct services across Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. That achievement complements the 23 million children reached across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by Ahlan Simsim’s award-winning TV program of the same name, which means “Welcome Sesame” in Arabic. Since being awarded the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s historic $100 Million 100&Change grant five years ago this month, Ahlan Simsim remains the largest early childhood development initiative in the history of humanitarian response.

Ahlan Simsim combines the acclaimed mass media and early education experience of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, with the humanitarian technical expertise of the IRC to support the early childhood development of children impacted by conflict and crisis across the Middle East. Through the locally-produced version of Sesame Street and direct services in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, Ahlan Simsim is reaching families wherever they are — from classrooms and health clinics to TVs and mobile devices — with vital educational resources that children need to thrive. Ahlan Simsim is not only bringing critical early learning and nurturing care to children and host communities affected by displacement, but the program is also designed as a scalable approach to change the way the humanitarian system responds to the needs of young children affected by conflict and crisis around the world.

The first five years of a child’s life are pivotal for their cognitive and social-emotional development. But 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 that challenge head-on, providing critical services immediately while also strengthening national systems that support children in the long term for year-on-year sustained impact through partnerships with local partners and Ministries of Health, Education, and Social Development. 

“At a time when more children than ever before are affected by conflict and displacement, Ahlan Simsim is setting a new standard for effective, scalable early childhood development programs in crisis settings,” said Sherrie Westin, President of Sesame Workshop. “More than half of displaced Syrian children in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq are watching Ahlan Simsim, and today’s milestone of one million reached by direct services speaks to Ahlan Simsim’s unique ability to reach children at scale with playful learning and nurturing care.”

“The IRC-Sesame Workshop Ahlan Simsim program is the largest early childhood development program in a humanitarian setting,” said David Miliband, President and CEO of the IRC. “The milestone of the millionth child reached through direct services, alongside the 23 million children through the Ahlan Simsim 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. The evidence-based programing in the Middle East shows what can be done through determined partnership and innovative programing. This is real action to prevent a lost generation of children in the Middle East.”

NYU’s Global TIES for Children serves as the independent research partner for Ahlan Simsim, conducting rigorous evaluations of the implementation of the program and its impact on children and families and building the scientific evidence base on how best to support young children’s development in humanitarian settings. Ahlan Simsim is made possible by generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation with additional support from the LEGO Foundation. The launch of the initiative’s TV show was covered by outlets including 60 Minutes and The New York Times.

Watch episodes of Ahlan Simsim on YouTube and explore the library of resources at

About Sesame Workshop

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, the pioneering television show that has been reaching and teaching children since 1969. Today, Sesame Workshop is an innovative force for change, with a mission to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. We’re present in more than 150 countries, serving vulnerable children through a wide range of media, formal education, and philanthropically funded social impact programs, each grounded in rigorous research and tailored to the needs and cultures of the communities we serve. For more information, please visit

About the IRC

The IRC Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore heath, safety, education, economic well-being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC works in more than 40 countries and in 28 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.