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After surviving years of protracted conflict, deprivation and the effects of sanctions, the 15 million children of today’s Iraq now stand to benefit from increasingly independent and strong political leadership, relative security improvements and greater access to essential services throughout the country. However, with outdated social policies, limited governmental technical capacity, dilapidated social service infrastructure, and ongoing violence, children’s rights continue to be violated and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in many governorates is still distant.

Issues facing children in Iraq

  • 23 percent of the population are living below US$2.2 per day; a root cause for widespread malnutrition among children and women. Malnutrition is high, with one in three children under five years either moderately or severe stunted, while exclusive breastfeeding is low, at only one in four children.
  • Primary school net enrolment has improved, reaching 87 percent for boys and 82 percent for girls in 2007, but remains insufficient with only 68 per cent of rural girls enrolled. Nearly 9 in 10 children younger than age 15 do not attend school regularly, largely because of insecurity as well as negative attitudes toward girls’ education. Only 25 per cent of all high school aged children enrol in high school and only 10 per cent complete high school.
  • High rates of women’s illiteracy are persistent, including for young women, at 19 per cent, nearly double the rates for young men (11 per cent).
  • The Under-5 Mortality Rate stands at 41 per 1,000 live births, while the Maternal Mortality Ratio, at 84 per 100,000 live births, is double that of Iraq’s neighbours.
  • The Water and Sanitation infrastructure has not been maintained or revamped in the last 30 years leading to insufficient and erratic supply.
  • Continual violence has destroyed institutions and systems of physical, social and legal protection in most parts of the country. The loss of tens of thousands of parents and caregivers from conflict has made children even more vulnerable to harassment, exploitation, and abuse.  This severely weakened protective environment exacerbates child labour across Iraq, which is estimated at 11 percent, and child marriage, which is at 19 percent.
  • Children are being used by armed groups as scouts, lookouts, and spies, to man checkpoints, to transport explosives and equipment, to plant explosive devices such as roadside bombs, and as suicide bombers.

Activities and results for children

  • UNICEF has supported national and emergency measles/polio immunization campaigns and routine outreach services that vaccinate over five million under-five children every year.
  • Therapeutic feeding was provided for about 5,000 severely malnourished children under 5.
  • Since 2003, three million people have been provided with improved access to primary health services, including around 500,000 children under 5 and 120,000 pregnant women, via the rehabilitation of 74 primary health care centres and construction of 22 maternal and child health units.
  • 51,606 children in 105 schools have been provided with psychosocial assistance.
  • UNICEF has assisted with the rehabilitation of 105 schools providing school access to 167,700 students.
  • UNICEF has supported Emergency Water and sanitation services provided to 500,000 vulnerable Iraqis across the country.
  • UNICEF has provided mine risk education to around 2 million people and has provided protection services to 3,000 vulnerable children.



Basic Indicators

Under-5 mortality rank


Under-5 mortality rate, 1990


Under-5 mortality rate, 2009


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 1990


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 2009


Neonatal mortality rate, 2009


Total population (thousands), 2009


Annual no. of births (thousands), 2009


Annual no. of under-5 deaths (thousands), 2009


GNI per capita (US$), 2009


Life expectancy at birth (years), 2009


Total adult literacy rate (%), 2005-2008*


Primary school net enrolment/attendance (%), 2005-2009*


% share of household income 2000-2009*, lowest 40%


% share of household income 2000-2009*, highest 20%


Definitions and data sources [popup]

Source: The State of the World's Children

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