|© UNICEF Baghdad/2008|
|During her five-day visit to Iraq, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy (left), received a painting from a displaced child.|
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, USA, 2 May 2008 – The UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, has called for immediate action to improve the lives of Iraqi children.
“It is an intolerable situation,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy, who has just returned from a five-day trip to Iraq, where she met political leaders in Baghdad and spent time with displaced families in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region.
Children’s basic needs not met
Only 50 per cent of primary school-age students in Iraq are attending school, and only 40 per cent have access to safe water. Not only are Iraqi children’s basic needs are not being met, but children are also suffering high levels of violence and are being recruited into armed groups, some as suicide bombers.
Ms. Coomaraswamy has urged all parties in the conflict to release any children in their forces who are under the age of 18. And she says humanitarian workers need free access to deliver aid and vital supplies.
“We can’t wait for a stable security environment to deliver humanitarian aid because it’s at crisis point,” she said.
A call to action
Ms. Coomaraswamy has called on the Iraqi and United States governments and the international community to ensure safe access for humanitarian workers so that children in all parts of Iraq may be reached.
The Special Representative has also urged Iraqi leaders to ensure that children stay out of the conflict.
“Let peace in Iraq begin with the protection of children,” she said.