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Jordan’s Queen Rania issues UNICEF’s worldwide call to action to aid Iraqi children

© Reuters/Strong
Iraqi boys wait in line to receive health care at a temporary medical clinic set up by U.S. army medics from the 10th Mountain Division near Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, 22 April 2007.

By Anwulika Okafor

NEW YORK, USA, 23 May 2007 – Women and children are often the ones who bear the greatest burden of the turbulence and violence that comes with conflict. This has been the situation in Iraq since the beginning of the 2003 war; however, over the last year, conditions for children have deteriorated to what UNICEF considers to be a critical point. For this reason, UNICEF issued a worldwide call for action and aid today to combat the increasingly worsening situation.

The call was launched by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, UNICEF’s first ever Eminent Advocate for Children, in Amman, Jordan.

“This is a critical moment for children caught in the violence,” said Queen Rania. “Last week, children became this year’s first victims of cholera in Iraq, and we dread a major outbreak of this disease in the heat of summer. Less than 30 per cent of Iraqi children have access to a glass of safe drinking water. And insecurity in many areas makes it increasingly perilous to even try to reach health services. Up to one in ten Iraqis is suffering from acute malnutrition.”

© UNICEF Jordan/2007/Al-Moughrabi
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, UNICEF’s first ever Eminent Advocate for Children, announces a worldwide call to aid for Iraqi children in Amman, Jordan.

Displaced and underserved

Almost 15 per cent of Iraq’s population, some 4 million people, have had to leave their homes since the beginning of the war – half are children. UNICEF is asking for $42 million dollars to provide critical relief for 1.6 million children who have been displaced and are living inside Iraq and in the neighbouring countries of Jordan and Syria. UNICEF hopes to use the money to intensify its support of essential programs, especially in the areas of education, sanitation and immunization for children over a period of six months.

“Humanitarian aid offers a lifeline to Iraq’s children and stepping up support now is the best way to protect and invest in Iraq’s future,” said Daniel Toole, Acting Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Chief of Emergency Operations. “Plans are in place to reach Iraq’s most vulnerable children with basic health, water, sanitation and education support – particularly displaced children living in host communities, as well as children living in Iraq’s most violent districts.”

© Reuters/Raheem
A mother and her children wait to receive food rations distributed by the Red Crescent to poor families and Shi'ite refugees in Baghdad's Sadr City.

The effects of the instability in Iraq cannot be understated. Many who fled their homes did so without adequate resources to provide for themselves or their families. The war has left many women widowed and in some instances, children orphaned. Some displaced families stay with relatives, but with the continued turbulence, jobs and money are scarce for many. For those who fled to the neighbouring countries of Jordan and Syria, around 2 million Iraqis in total, facing their unsure future in foreign lands proves daunting. In addition the number of displaced continues to place heavy burdens on social and health care systems already under strain.

Aid for the immediate future and beyond

UNICEF, its partners and neighbouring governments have done much to address the needs of these displaced families, from immunization drives, to providing clean water and rebuilding schools. A recent immunization drive coordinated through efforts from UNICEF, WHO and the Iraqi government had health workers going door to door in an unprecedented effort to protect 3.6 million Iraqi children from measles, mumps and rubella. UNICEF has also been providing 120,000 Iraqis with clean water. But these measures, while admirable, are not enough. Much more needs to be done.

© Reuters/Imad al Khozai
Children wait for their meals inside a tent at a camp for Shi'ite displaced families.

“What children need, above all, is a resolution to this crisis. That has to be our ultimate hope,” Queen Rania added. “For many Iraqi children, the long-term future may be unclear, but their present needs – for education, for health care, for clean water and proper sanitation – are clear and must be met, now.”

While six months will not be enough to cure all of the problems for these young children, it will hopefully be a start to a better and healthier future.




May 2007:
Her Majesty Queen Rania, UNICEF's Eminent Advocate for Children announces a Call to Action for Iraqi children in Amman, Jordan.
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May 2007:
UNICEF Correspondent Anwulika Okafor reports on UNICEF’s call for increased aid for Iraqi children.
 VIDEO  high | low

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