Humanitarian Action for Children
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps support the agency’s work as it provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.
- More than 25,000 Iraqis in northeast Syria, of whom 64 per cent are children and 26 per cent women, are expected to return to Iraq; UNICEF is supporting the return and reintegration of these children and women, who have acute protection, health and education needs.
- In areas that were affected by the 2013–2017 conflict in Iraq, unmet needs persist for more than 1 million internally displaced people; girls and women in particular have urgent needs for protection, and for education. A transition to government-led coordination and service provision has been partially completed; however, a public financing crisis may create gaps in services.
- At the same time, especially in southern Iraq, communities face a rapidly evolving water crisis, which has displaced families and affected services for children.
- UNICEF is requesting $41.2 million in 2024 to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families affected by multiple crises, especially returning children and families from northeast Syria, along with internally displaced children and those in extremely water-stressed areas.
Key planned targets
29,202 women and children accessing gender-based violence mitigation, prevention, response
300,000 children accessing formal or non-formal education, including early learning
15,827 children and adolescent returnees from Al-Hol accessing rehabilitation and reintegration services
52,141 people reached by WASH in health care facilities and learning environments
Funding requirements for 2024
Country needs and strategy
Humanitarian needs linked to the 2013–2017 conflict in Iraq persist, further compounded by emerging challenges linked to a changing climate. Authorities have taken over many services supporting displaced people, yet the transitions for protection and education remain incomplete. With the fiscal crisis in the Kurdish Region of Iraq, there is a risk of loss of services for internally displaced people. In federal Iraq, all camps were closed in 2023. However, 1 million people are unable to return to their communities; they live instead in informal settlements, many of them in female-headed households in a situation where the child poverty rate is 55 per cent and one in three children is anaemic. Despite reconstruction efforts, humanitarian needs in Iraq remain, especially for returnees in remote, disputed areas with few services. Overall, 3 million people, including 1.3 million children, have humanitarian, education and protection needs, especially adolescent girls and young women, who are at the greatest risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Female-headed households without male guardians are particularly vulnerable.
In 2024, one of the greatest challenges facing Iraq will be water scarcity driven by climate change, which is leading to decreased groundwater levels and reduced flows in major rivers. Overall, nearly 740,500 people need WASH services, including those facing severe water scarcity in the southern governorates, along with those facing cholera risks. Water shortage in schools especially affects adolescent girls. Iraq is the world's fifth most vulnerable country to climate change. Particularly in southern Iraq, communities face rapidly evolving water shortages, which are displacing families and affecting services.
The return of 25,000 Iraqi citizens from northeast Syria continues. Ninety per cent of these returnees are children and women. Children have suffered severe child rights violations and multiple deprivations in Al-Hol camp in the Syrian Arab Republic and have received little education while living in a violent environment. Returnees from Al-Hol arrive at Jeddah 1 Rehabilitation Center in Iraq, where UNICEF supports education, child protection, WASH and health and nutrition services; this is followed by reintegration support in communities of return. Access to civil documentation is critical for the returnees' journey; without documents it is difficult for children to access essential services and return to communities. Women without male guardians find it particularly difficult to obtain documents. Currently, UNICEF is a co-chair with the Government at the national level, coordinating the return process from northeast Syria.
UNICEF's multi-pronged humanitarian strategy in Iraq focuses on delivering humanitarian services to vulnerable children, providing reintegration support to returnees and contributing to peacebuilding and strengthening national systems to meet the longer-term needs of the Iraqi people.
As Iraq transitions from receiving humanitarian assistance to meeting the needs of its population through government services, UNICEF's humanitarian actions align with the triple nexus humanitarian–development–peace approach outlined in the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action. UNICEF supports the transition from humanitarian assistance to a longer-term gender-responsive and inclusive development approach, notably by supporting government-led humanitarian coordination and response.
Multisectoral reintegration support is especially needed for families returning from northeast Syria. This will include peacebuilding for communities for reintegration of sometimes highly stigmatized children, along with mainstreaming accountability to affected populations.
In 2024, protection will remain central to UNICEF's response in Iraq. UNICEF will adopt a holistic/multisectoral case management approach, integrating gender-based violence response and prevention. Access to relevant gender-sensitive and inclusive mental health and psychosocial support services and legal assistance will continue. UNICEF will also support specialized programming for responding to and preventing gender-based violence and integrating related risk mitigation measures into programmes. Creating a permanent solution for educating young Syrian refugees will be a policy priority in addition to providing support to schools and teachers.
UNICEF will continue to provide gender-responsive WASH services for displaced people where government services have not taken over and will strengthen existing water systems in areas of water scarcity. Using a systems strengthening approach, UNICEF works closely with the Government to create sustained access to health and nutrition services, including antenatal and postnatal care especially for teenage mothers, and to immunization, nutrition screening, counselling and management of malnutrition. Gender and disability-inclusive programming will address the special needs of women, girls and boys and people with disabilities. Risk communication and community engagement will promote positive behaviour change.
UNICEF will support the financial access of vulnerable households to essential commodities while facilitating their transition to the government’s social safety net. Capacity building of government and civil society partners, including women- and girl-led organizations, will be done to identify, prepare for and respond to crises/shocks. Emergency preparedness activities will address the impacts of water scarcity and the response to epidemics and disease outbreaks, including cholera. Preparedness work will enhance the Government's capacity to respond to other potential emergency events. This strategy complements the durable solutions components in the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for Iraq.
Humanitarian Action is at the core of UNICEF’s mandate to realize the rights of every child. This edition of Humanitarian Action for Children – UNICEF’s annual humanitarian fundraising appeal – describes the ongoing crises affecting children in Iraq; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.