Muppet and Young Girl Smile and Hug

Middle East and North Africa

Sesame’s presence in the Middle East began with our Arabic-language Iftah Ya Simsim show, which first aired in Kuwait in 1979 and eventually reached 22 countries. Today, through outreach efforts and television shows across the region, we’re building academic skills, promoting gender equity, and fostering children’s resilience in in communities affected by conflict—all with Sesame’s trademark mix of laughter and learning.

Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon — Refugee Response

In an historic partnership aimed at changing how education is valued and delivered in humanitarian crises, Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee have launched the largest early-childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response with a groundbreaking grant from the MacArthur Foundation. In classrooms and clinics, we’re bringing playful lessons and nurturing care to over a million displaced children in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, with millions more reached through mass media on televisions and mobile devices.

Jordan, Lebanon, Kurdish Region of Iraq — WASH UP!

Sesame Workshop and World Vision expanded our WASH UP! initiative to reach refugee children throughout the region with life-saving education about water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as supporting the socio-emotional needs of Syrian refugee children, many of whom have experienced significant trauma. Featuring Sesame Street’s lovable Muppet Raya and her friend Elmo, our videos and easy-to-share activities make handwashing and healthy latrine use part of everyday routines to prevent the spread of water-related illnesses.

MENA Region — Resilience and Relationships

Through our Middle Eastern TV shows and outreach efforts, we help children and families connect, build resilience, and learn about the world around them. Our refugee response work focuses on important social and emotional lessons to support displaced families and their host communities. On Iftah Ya Simsim, which airs on 16 channels throughout the MENA region, characters model empathy, respect, and appreciation of cultural differences.

Egypt — Financial Empowerment and Gender Equity

Lively lessons about saving and spending were woven into Egypt’s Alam Simsim program, which aired more than 200 episodes in the early to mid-2000s. These financial lessons are still accessible to families across the region online in our “Dream, Save, Do” toolkits, featuring Elmo and friends. “Dream, Save, Do” encourages families to talk about the things they want in life and plan ahead to make them a reality.

Alam Simsim also addressed gender equity, with spirited four-year-old girl Khoka modeling for all children that girls can dream big; she aspired to be a doctor, lawyer, and engineer all at the same time.

Big Bird and little girl hugging on a playground

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