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Ricky Martin campaigning for young refugees to be given an education

Singer Ricky Martin has joined the call for the international community to "open its heart" to help child refugees fleeing the war in Syria.

The pop star traveled to Lebanon earlier this week (begs30Jun16) as part of his role as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF (United Nations Children's Emergency Fund), and during his visit, he met with Syrian kids in Zahleh in the Bekaa Valley, and in the informal Minnieh settlement, near Tripoli.


The 44-year-old father-of-two was moved by the young refugees' plight and he has urged government officials worldwide to step up their efforts to provide basic necessities for displaced persons in the Middle East, where UNICEF bosses estimate 2.8 million children are not receiving an education.


"At this point what we want is to make sure children get their rights," he told The Associated Press while in Minnieh on Thursday (02Jun16). "Some children unfortunately are not going to school."


He reveals the struggle of one kid he came across, an 11-year-old named Batoul, particularly stuck with him as the girl is "working in agriculture, 12 hours a day. And she's getting paid with water."


"This is happening to our kids," he added in disbelief. "This is happening to our future generation."


Ricky's comments echo those previously made by Angelina Jolie, a Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who is lobbying world leaders to do more to tackle the global refugee crisis.


However, Ricky's charity visit wasn't all pain and heartbreak - in Minnieh, he was treated to a performance of his hit Maria by the disadvantaged youths, while he also played soccer with them.


The Latin singer isn't the only pop star to have recently traveled to far-flung places on behalf of UNICEF. Fellow Goodwill Ambassador Katy Perry trekked to the rural Ninh Thuan Province, one of Vietnam's most impoverished communities, in late May (16), and met several families desperate for access to full-time education and safe sanitation.


"It was heartbreaking to meet a grandmother who was left to care for four grandchildren after her daughter passed away," the Firework star told unicef.org. "The family lives off a bumpy path in a remote village in the hills, and one of the grandchildren, a five-year-old named Linh, became severely malnourished."