Recent security improvements have allowed greater access to Iraq’s most affected and neglected communities; and the extent of the impact of conflict is only now becoming visible. It is clear that pockets of severe deprivation persist, and while some of these are directly linked to the recent conflict, others are a vestige of a quarter of a century of war and hardship.
Among other concerns, measles remain a threat to the health of Iraq’s children, with the Ministry of Health (MoH) announcing an outbreak of measles infections totalling over 6,000 cases since early 2008. Furthermore, schools visited are experiencing serious over-crowding. Students often do not have access to clean drinking water and buildings lack functional sanitation facilities.
The UNICEF Iraq country office has so far received 10% of its total requirements outlined in the Consolidated Appeals Process/Humanitarian Action Report, but still needs over US$ 26 million in order to carry out its activities in 2009.
Iraq Humanitarian Action Update 17 February 2009 [pdf]
The cholera outbreak of 2008 is considered to have subsided as the gradual decrease in new cases has now reduced to zero cases by mid December. However, in the most deprived communities visited in Anbar, Babil and Basra, up to 52% of children under five had experienced a diarrhoeal episode in the two weeks prior to being surveyed. In locations visited in Babil, Qadissiyah and Basra, only one third of the households report reliable access to safe drinking water.
Existing evidence shows that violence against women and girls is widespread, with 21.2% of women reporting experiencing physical violence in the home. Information on missing and/or separated children, which includes the issue of recruitment of children by extremist groups, is now beginning to trickle in, but remains very challenging to capture. Lastly, in communities assessed in Anbar, Babil and Basra, less than 60% of children aged 6-11 have regularly attended school in the past two school months. Moreover, the gap between boys and girls in enrolment and attendance remain significant at all levels.
In collaboration with partners and government counterparts, UNICEF is currently carrying out humanitarian interventions in 44 communities across the country. This action is in locations where families are experiencing acute vulnerability as a direct result of conflict, epidemic and/or natural disaster.
Iraq Humanitarian Action Update 19 Jan 2009 [pdf]
The month of May was dominated by the continuation of the conflict in Sadr City, Baghdad, between the Sadrist militia and GoI / MNF-I forces. The Shia-dominant zone occupying the northeast of Baghdad is home to over 2.5 million Iraqis, half of them children. After seven weeks of heavy fighting, a ceasefire was formalized on 12 May. However, throughout the month the situation remained volatile and unpredictable, and sporadic fighting continued several days into the ceasefire. A long-term political solution to the crisis remains a serious challenge.
Priority concerns for children caught in this conflict related primarily to periodic and total lack of freedom of movement for civilians due to heavy shelling and street fighting, and lack of humanitarian access to affected communities by UNICEF and other actors. This in turn led to shortages of water, food and medical supplies. Direct strikes on municipal water infrastructure, health facilities (including a major hospital) and at least 29 schools compounds the potential for longer-term impact of this conflict on essential social services for children. The psychological impact on children will be an issue requiring urgent attention once access is more predictable. To date, UNICEF has responded to the immediate needs of over 12,000 families and 3,000 individuals in the provision of safe water, hygiene materials and emergency health supplies in Sadr City. In other areas of the country, UNICEF and WHO have been conducting mop-up operations to control a measles outbreak. The number of confirmed measles cases since the beginning of the year has already reached 1,012.
Iraq Humanitarian Action Update 11 Jun 2008 [pdf]
2008 began on a promising note for children in Iraq. Violence had fallen in Baghdad. Schools and shops were opening in some of the capital’s formerly most insecure areas. The national cholera outbreak had subsided, fresh displacement was at the lowest level since 2006, and the latest polio immunization campaign had been successfully completed. However, the last two months have seen new challenges arise. In February, national officials reported a 33% rise in the number of Iraqis killed over the previous month, reversing a six-month trend of declining casualties. Major mass casualty attacks took place in Kirkuk, Mosul and Samarra. UNICEF was one of several UN Agencies and NGOs to quickly respond with support to treat victims and repair schools. The psycho-social impact of conflict on children has become a growing concern in the first months of this year.
Update on the Situation of Children in Iraq - First Quarter of 2008 [pdf]
Four years after start of the 2003 conflict, Iraq’s children are facing an enormous challenge. Their long-cherished hope for a normal childhood – enjoying health care, school services, family life and a stable community - is being swept away by violence and displacement. Every day, more and more children are losing family members, friends and neighbours, school days, their health, their hopes – and even their lives.
UNICEF is requesting US$ 41,750,000 to step up its humanitarian relief effort for vulnerable Iraqi children and women in Iraq, Jordan and Syria over the next six months.
Immediate Needs for Iraqi children in Iraq and Neighbouring Countries, 17 May 2007 [pdf]
Press release 18 April 2007