Basma and Jad making a friend smile.

Ahlan Simsim Initiative

Bringing vital early education to children affected by conflict and crisis in the Syrian response region.

Ahlan Simsim is a transformational program from Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee that integrates direct services for families affected by conflict and crisis with engaging educational media.

Ahlan Simsim is reaching children wherever they are — from classrooms, to health clinics and learning centers, to TVs and mobile devices. 

The single largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response, Ahlan Simsim has reached over a million children through direct services in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and 23 million children through Ahlan Simsim, the award-winning locally produced Arabic-language version of Sesame Street airing across the Middle East and North Africa. 

Made possible by a landmark $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation and additional support from the LEGO Foundation, Ahlan Simsim is transforming the way children are served in conflict and crisis.

47 Million Children
The number of children worldwide forced to flee their homes — the highest number ever recorded by UNICEF.
5 Years and Counting
In 2017, Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee embarked on a journey to create the largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response. Five years on, Ahlan Simsim has touched millions of young lives at a critical time in their development.

Trusted Words from a Trusted Messenger

Since Sesame Workshop’s inception, formative research has been at the heart of our approach. When we wanted to reach caregivers with important information and model behaviors to help them support their children’s social-emotional development, we turned to research to help us understand who the most trusted messengers would be. We knew that if parents and caregivers didn’t trust the messenger, they wouldn’t engage in the first place. 

Through our research, we learned that parents felt that an effective, trusted messenger must appeal to children, even if the video is for parents. We learned that the messenger must make direct eye contact and engage in positive, encouraging body language. And we even learned that a messenger in casual, joyful, and colorful clothing made a difference.

Read More on Medium
Ahlan Simsim Research Findings

Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee launched Ahlan Simsim in 2018 to address a humanitarian crisis: a generation of children raised amidst conflict, with limited access to early childhood learning and development opportunities. Another goal was to share our research and findings. Now, NYU has released the results of three landmark studies, with good news for children.

Meet Ameera, Sesame Workshop’s Newest Muppet Friend

An eight-year-old Muppet who uses a wheelchair and crutches to get around, Ameera is a natural leader with a great sense of humor and a passion for science and basketball.

Ameera made her debut on Ahlan Simsim and also stars in globally tested animations designed to quickly deliver playful learning to children affected by conflict and crisis. With her signature humor and love of learning, we know that Ameera will inspire young viewers worldwide to be curious and confident.


92% of Caregivers

Reported that their children learned to apply the “Stop, Notice, Think” strategy to help them regulate their emotions, empathize with others, and overcome challenges.

Cookie Monster eats a cookie while Jad looks on. Basma laughs in the foreground.
Featured Resource
Ahlan Simsim Animated Storybooks

With funding from USA for UNHCR, we made our content more accessible, animating storybooks and creating sing-along versions of Ahlan Simsim songs.

Initiative Partner