NEW YORK, 23 November 2004 – UNICEF today again expressed deep concern about the devastating impact the hostilities in Iraq is having on the overall well-being of the country’s children.
“This protracted fighting and instability is wreaking havoc on Iraqi children,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said.
In addition to the ongoing difficulties of living amidst daily violence and widespread insecurity, children are also suffering from the inadequacy of basic services such as water and sanitation, Bellamy said.
“Latest reports are showing that acute malnutrition among young children has nearly doubled since March 2003,” she said. “This means that hundreds of thousands of children are today suffering the severe effects of diarrhoea and nutrient deficiencies.”
She noted that Iraq already had severe problems with malnutrition, water service and sanitation before the war, when 1 in 8 Iraqi children died before the age of five.
“The lack of clean water and adequate sanitation leads to the quick spread of disease, and greatly exacerbates the impact of malnutrition,” Bellamy said. “As always, young children are the most vulnerable.”
Humanitarian work in Iraq has been crippled by the fact that international aid agencies, including the UN, have been directly targeted and forced to conduct their humanitarian operations largely from neighbouring countries.
Operating from outside Iraq, UNICEF’s continuing assistance throughout Iraq includes: immunization against measles and other diseases; overcoming micronutrient deficiency disorders; supporting the repair of schools, provision of learning materials and capacity building of teachers; and trucking clean water that is protected from contamination by sewage. All of these interventions help mitigate the severity of malnutrition. Yet it is not enough to protect the health of all of Iraq's children.
Even before the most recent conflict began, many Iraqi children were highly vulnerable to disease and malnutrition, Bellamy said, noting that this is the third time that the children of Iraq have been caught up in war in the past 18 years.
“War is waged by adults, but it is the children who suffer the most,” Bellamy said. In addition to raising our voices on this, those engaged in the battles and violence must themselves recognize and act out their own responsibility to protect children and enable, rather than hinder, the provision of humanitarian assistance wherever needed.
For more information, please contact:
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York, +1 212 326 7426, firstname.lastname@example.org