Sesame Street has tackled everything from foster care to substance abuse in the past year. Now it's trying to help children suffering as a result of the Syrian civil war.

Sesame Workshop — the non-profit, educational organisation behind the beloved chidlren's show — has launched a new, locally produced Arabic TV programme for the hundreds of thousands of children dealing with displacement in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

'Goodness and humour' celebrated as 'Sesame Street' turns 50
Premium - Why the world still needs Sesame Street to teach us how to be nice
How a 'Sesame Street' Muppet became embroiled in a controversy over autism
Voice of Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch dies aged 85

"The thing that became very apparent in our work on the ground is how critical the need was for the children of this region and children who have been affected by traumatic events to have the social and emotional skills they need," said Sesame Workshop's president of social impact and philanthropy, Sherrie Westin.


Called Ahlan Simsim, which means Welcome Sesame in Arabic, the show will feature Elmo, Cookie Monster and Grover, as well as two new Muppets — the boy monster Jad, who had to leave his home, and Basma, a purple girl monster who befriends the young stranger.

A goat named Ma'zooza adds comic relief.

Each 26-minute show will explore emotions experienced by all kids, particularly those dealing with trauma, and offer coping skills for anger, fear, frustration, nervousness and loneliness.

A variety show in the second half of each episode offers creators the chance to bring in local celebrities and attract an adult audience to hammer home the message.

"The humour has to be there always, which is the Sesame spirit," said Khaled Haddad, an executive producer.

Ahlan Simsim will premiere on February 2 on a pan-Arab satellite network that reaches 20 countries in North Africa, the Gulf and the Levant, as well as YouTube and national broadcasters across the region.

Elmo is also appearing in Ahlan Simsim. Photo / Supplied
Elmo is also appearing in Ahlan Simsim. Photo / Supplied

Aimed at children aged 3-8, it will steer clear of the larger political, social or religious issues.

"To the best of our ability we are not making political statements," Westin said.


"The spirit behind Sesame Street has always been it doesn't matter if you have purple fur or yellow fur," said Scott Cameron, executive producer of the new show. "It's a place where children can feel safe and supported and where real things are tackled — like fear of the dark, frustration or loneliness. We try to always do it with comedy alongside the heartfelt."