UNITED NATIONS: Nearly 30 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in countries affected by conflict and disaster are illiterate, triple the global rate, the U.N. children’s agency said Wednesday.

UNICEF said in a new study that among these 59 million young people, girls are at the biggest disadvantage when it comes to getting an education.

It said four impoverished African countries with a long history of instability had the highest rates of young people unable to read or write — Niger with 76 percent, Chad with 69 percent, South Sudan with 68 percent and Central African Republic with 64 percent.

“These numbers are a stark reminder of the tragic impact that crises have on children’s education, their futures, and the stability and growth of their economies and societies,” said UNICEF’s new executive director, Henrietta Fore. “An uneducated child who grows into an illiterate youth in a country ripped apart by conflict or destroyed by disasters may not have much of a chance.”

UNICEF urged governments and other partners to provide young children with access to quality early education programs, offer illiterate young people the opportunity to learn to read and write, and increase investment in education, particularly for the most disadvantaged.

“For all children to fully reap the benefits of learning, it is key that they get the best quality education possible, as early as possible,” Fore said.