Iraq

UNICEF appeals for $37 million to save vulnerable Iraqi children

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Iraq/2007/Arar
Children playing in a Baghdad camp for the displaced.

By Claire Hajaj

For many Iraqi young people, the story of their childhood is one of struggle and loss. This is one of a series of reports in which UNICEF examines what is being done to ensure at least a semblance of normalcy for children caught in the ongoing conflict in Iraq.

AMMAN, Jordan, 12 February 2008 – Iraq’s children saw little respite from violence and instability in 2007. But help may be on the way. A consolidated appeal for Iraq will be launched today to help humanitarian organizations respond to widespread suffering and deprivation.

As part of this funding appeal, UNICEF is asking for $37 million to support vulnerable Iraqi children and families in 2008.The funds will enable UNICEF to expand its vital assistance – including emergency health care, safe drinking water, sanitation, education and critical protective services – to many children in Iraq who are not being helped.

Facing a precarious existence

Childhood in Iraq is more precarious than ever. For example:

  • A large number of children, estimated in the tens of thousands, have lost parents, siblings and other family members to violence
  • At least one in five primary school-age children is unable to go to school
  • Only 40 per cent of children have regular access to safe drinking water
  • Some 600,000 children are among the 1.2 million Iraqis displaced over the past two years. Most families are still unable to return home.
UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Iraq/2007/Arar
An Iraqi child recovers from the deadly Sinjar bombings in August 2007.

Living with so much anxiety and loss has taken a heavy toll on children’s psychological and social well-being. Many are anxious and war-weary, unable to sleep or concentrate at school. More and more have turned to the streets and to work, where they are exposed to the worst forms of abuse and exploitation.

From the remote marshlands of southern Iraq to the unstable cities around Baghdad and the mountains of the Kurdish north, children’s stories reveal the damage inflicted by conflict. They also show children’s incredible resilience in the face of significant challenges.

“I wake up early, I wash my face and go school with my sisters,” says Haneen, 9, in Baghdad. “It’s exhausting because the road to school is so long and usually it’s blocked. But I am determined to become a doctor – they all call me ‘doctor’ at school.”

“My parents had to buy notebooks and stationery for us, even though it’s expensive,” says Malak, another child in Baghdad. “Our school desks are broken and fans are out of order. We take water in bottles to school because water tanks might not be clean.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Iraq/2007/Arar
UNICEF education kits reach schoolchildren in Iraq.

Expanded reach of assistance

Despite difficult and dangerous conditions, help can and does reach children like Haneen and Malak. UNICEF is still working inside every governorate of Iraq, delivering assistance even in the most insecure areas. In 2007:

  • House-to-house immunization drives, supported by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, protected more than 4 million children against polio and more than 3 million against measles, mumps and rubella
  • Over 470 million litres of safe water were delivered to children in insecure parts of Baghdad, Anbar and Ninevah governorates
  • UNICEF emergency medical supplies reached victims of mass casualty attacks in Mosul, Sinjar and elsewhere – often within 24 hours.

UNICEF was also part of the humanitarian efforts that helped Iraq contain its biggest cholera outbreak in recent memory, providing hygiene support and safe water to thousands of affected families in Kirkuk, Suleimainya, Erbil, Basra and Baghdad.

But as conflict continues, more resources are needed to extend the reach of assistance. The 2008 Iraq consolidated appeal – the first for Iraq since 2003 – is critical to ensure that vulnerable Iraqi children receive more consistent support.

Making an impact

To improve its crisis response for Iraqi children, UNICEF is now launching an innovative emergency approach called ‘IMPACT: Iraq’. A specialized network of UNICEF partners and Iraqis themselves, positioned throughout the country, will respond quickly to crises by delivering a life-saving package of support to children in the greatest need, and monitoring the results on the ground.

More than 360,000 vulnerable Iraqi children and their families could receive essential aid through this approach in 2008.

UNICEF Representative for Iraq Roger Wright stresses that the future of the country will depend on how well UNICEF and its partners meet children’s urgent needs today. “The most cherished hope of every Iraqi child is simply to learn, play and grow up in peace and dignity,” he says. “While their country remains in crisis, we must do all we can to protect their fundamental rights.”


 

 

Video

December 2007:
Iraqi schoolgirl Aasera (not her real name) discusses how the threat of violence has become part of her everyday life.
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Farrah (not her real name) talks about how her life has been affected by the ongoing conflict in Iraq.
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Audio

December 2007:
Amani, 17, living in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, talks about children and their families devastated by landmines, and expresses concern for child rights throughout Iraq.
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Reem, 17, who has lived in Thiqar, southern Iraq, since her family was forced to leave Baghdad, discusses her concerns about education and girls’ rights in Iraq.
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