Reaching children in Iraq

Children are especially at risk in Iraq crisis

UNICEF Image: A young boy, smiling, and an older boy seen through a car window, behind them, a line of cars filled with people; black smoke in the background
© UNICEF/UN040096/Romenzi
Two children sit in a car at a checkpoint in Qayyarah, south of Mosul.


The first half of 2016 saw escalating conflict in Iraq, with a total of 10 million people, including 4.7 million children – almost 1 in 3 children in Iraq – needing humanitarian assistance. That number is expected to rise as military operations continue.

Children make up almost half of the 3.3 million Iraqis displaced since January 2014. Since military operations were stepped up in Anbar governorate in May, over 85,000 people, including about 40,000 children, have been displaced from Fallujah and surrounding areas.

With the number of people displaced growing so fast, many of Iraq’s camps are operating beyond capacity, and families live in overcrowded conditions. Children are in danger of separation from their families, abduction, recruitment into the fighting, and sexual violence. Living amidst armed conflict – including exposure to mines and improvised explosive devices – puts them at risk of death and injury, and threatens their long-term mental health and future development.

Meanwhile, damaged and overstretched water and sanitation infrastructure and weakened health systems put children’s health and survival in jeopardy. And over 600,000 displaced children have missed a whole year of school.

UNICEF has been working with partners to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of children and families – providing access to safe water and sanitation, education, protection, health and nutrition services. UNICEF also operates Child-Friendly Spaces, where children can find respite through play, learning and psychosocial support, to help them cope with the ordeals they’ve been through.

Read more about UNICEF’s work and Iraq’s needs

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Perspectives, actions and accounts from UNICEF's team and partners

A new school for displaced children
SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq, 1 December 2016 – Hiyam, 8, has just started the second grade at newly built Al Batul school in Ashti displacement camp, which accommodates 1,200 students.

Mobile vaccination teams reach children in rural communities
KURDISTAN REGION, Iraq, 30 November 2016 – Since 2015, contributions from the UNICEF USA have helped support Ministry of Health mobile vaccination teams to protect more than 168,000 children from vaccine-preventable diseases in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Almost half of Mosul’s children cut off from clean water as fighting intensifies - UNICEF
BAGHDAD, 30 November 2016 – Nearly 300,000 children in Mosul – almost half of all the children in the city – and their families have reportedly been cut off from access to clean water after a major water pipeline was destroyed amid the ongoing conflict.

“Without school, we will not have doctors, engineers or teachers”
HASSAN SHAM DISPLACEMENT CAMP, Iraq, 27 November 2016 – "The reason I came to teach the children here at the camp is because for two-and-a-half years, they have been without education, toys, or ways to express their feelings."

Schools rise from the rubble in Anbar
ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq, 22 November 2016 – UNICEF Representative in Iraq Peter Hawkins recently visited schools in Anbar province. As tens of thousands of families return to Anbar, UNICEF is rehabilitating 100 schools and in August launched a ‘Back to School’ campaign to reach about 70,000 girls, boys and families to encourage enrollment.

Celebrating Universal Children’s Day
ERBIL, Iraq, 20 November 2016 – “I’m very happy to be here today because the music and dancing are so beautiful,” says Abdulla, 10. Young people in a camp in Erbil celebrate Childrens Day by putting on a concert for their family and friends, with the help of Terre des hommes Italia. The children are mostly displaced from Mosul and Sinjar in mid-2014.

Massive humanitarian needs one month since start of military operations to retake Mosul
BAGHDAD, Iraq, 17 November 2016 – Today marks one month of intensified military operations to retake the city of Mosul. With tens of thousands of families in newly retaken areas urgently requiring life-saving assistance, the humanitarian community in Iraq faces a massive scope of need. These latest developments further exacerbate a humanitarian crisis in a country where 10 million people already were in need of aid.

First UNICEF-led interagency aid convoy reaches Mosul
MOSUL, Iraq, 15 November 2016 – As the operation to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul continues, children and families inside the city need aid and support. UNICEF worked with the World Food Programme and the United Nations Population Fund to bring basic supplies to families living in the retaken areas.

UNICEF leads convoy into Mosul city with emergency supplies for 15,000 children
BAGHDAD Iraq, 15 November 2016 — A UNICEF-led multi-agency humanitarian convoy was on Sunday the first to enter the Iraqi city of Mosul together with WFP and UNFPA.

“We can’t go home, so we need to send our children to school.”
HASANSHAM CAMP, Iraq, 13 November 2016 – Internally displaced families in Hasansham camp, Iraq, live in difficult conditions, but their overriding concern is their children’s learning.

Iraqi families flee Mosul, seeking refuge across the Syrian border
DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 7 November 2016 – Children and families living in and near the northern Iraq city of Mosul have endured years of violence and suffering. Some of these families have sought refuge at Al Hol camp in the Syrian Arab Republic, where UNICEF has begun interventions in WASH, education and child protection.

Statement attributable to Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Iraq on the children of Mosul
ERBIL, Iraq, 4 November 2016 – An estimated 2,500 children and their families have arrived in the past 24 hours at camps south east of Mosul as Iraqi forces today for the first time entered the city streets and intensified their battle to retake Mosul.

9,700 children displaced since start of Mosul operation – UNICEF
BAGHDAD/NEW YORK, 3 November 2016 – Some 20,700 people have been displaced since the operation to retake Mosul started on 17 October. UNICEF estimates that 9,700 of them are children in urgent need of assistance.

Water on the front line near Mosul
AL HOUD, Iraq, 31 October 2016 – Al Houd, south of Mosul , was retaken by Iraqi security forces last week. Two days later, UNICEF sent a mission to deliver clean water and hygiene kits to the town’s 1,500 families. UNICEF Chief of Communication Sharon Behn Nogueira was there.

Latest from Mosul: Rolling updates from UNICEF Iraq
MOSUL, Iraq, 30 October 2016 – More than half a million children are at extreme risk in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. As the campaign to retake it continues, children and families could be forced to flee or become trapped between the fighting lines. UNICEF is working around the clock to support children fleeing Mosul.

Inspiring young rapper speaks out for refugees in Iraq
HARSHAM IDP CAMP, Iraq, 28 October 2016 – Laith, 17, raps about his experiences and his hope for the future. His mother died some time ago and his father was killed in front of his eyes when he was about 6. He fled Mosul and tried to reach Europe, but the boat capsized in Turkish waters, and he was taken back to Iraq, where he was jailed, interrogated and beaten. He now lives with his grandmother in the Harsham IDP camp in Erbil, Iraq, where he helps out at the UNICEF child-friendly space.

Displaced children in Iraq tell their stories
DEBAGA CAMP, Erbil, Iraq, 26 October 2016 – Violence and insecurity in northern Iraq have caused displacement throughout the region. Hear from the children living in Debaga Camp, whose lives have been upended.

Time to invest Iraq’s wealth in its future
BASRA, Iraq, 25 October 2016 – Iraq can draw on its oil wealth and rich educational heritage to secure a future for its children, many of whom are currently impoverished and deprived of education.

Major campaign launched to immunize 5.8 million Iraqi children against polio
BAGHDAD, Iraq, 24 October 2016 – A five-day polio vaccination campaign is under way in Iraq to reach an estimated 5.8 million children below the age of five in Iraq, regardless of previous vaccination status.

UNICEF responds to Mosul crisis: 4 things you need to know
21 October 2016 – As the battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS by coalition forces gets underway, more than half a million children and their families in Mosul will be at extreme risk in the coming weeks.

Building platforms for showers and toilets
Iraq, 20 October 2016 – Preparing facilities for an expected increase in displaced families in Iraq.

What’s happening in Mosul and how is UNICEF helping?
18 October 2016 – UNICEF is extremely concerned for the safety and wellbeing of children and their families caught up in the fighting to retake the city of Mosul and surrounding areas. UNICEF has water and hygiene supplies prepositioned for over 150,000 people, mobile teams are on standby to care for the most critical cases of mental and physical trauma among the children, and teams are also ready to start a vaccination campaign.

Keep children safe in Mosul operation, UNICEF says
BAGHDAD, Iraq, 17 October 2016 – More than half a million children and their families in Mosul will be at extreme risk in the coming weeks, UNICEF warned today as a military operation to retake the northern Iraqi city gets under way.

Conflict in Mosul: UNICEF is repsonding
MOSUL, Iraq, 17 October 2016 – The Mosul operation is underway. UNICEF is ready to provide water, sanitation, immunizations and psychosocial assistance to children.

Humanitarian crisis looms in Mosul
MOSUL, Iraq, 16 October 2016 – As military forces advance towards Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, UNICEF is racing to aid hundreds of thousands of people who are expected to need help. It’s estimated that 1.2 to 1.5 million civilians remain in the city, and of the one million who could be displaced, approximately half are children. At least 200,000 people are expected to be displaced in the first two weeks of the operation, and UNICEF has plans to assist 784,000 people affected in, or leaving Mosul.

Displaced by fighting near Mosul
QAYARRAH, Iraq, 8 October 2016 – Shahad, 3, is staying with her family in a transitional displacement camp near Qayarrah. Conflict to the south and east of Mosul has already forced more than 213,000 people to flee their homes since May 2016. In the coming months, as many as 700,000 more people are likely to require shelter and other live-saving assistance.

Showers and toilets for refugees in Kirkuk, Iraq
DAQUQ, Kirkuk, Iraq, 29 September 2016 – UNICEF is setting up water and sanitation services in a new camp under construction in Daquq, Kirkuk. New showers and toilets have been built, and newly drilled boreholes will provide safe water to residents of the camp when they arrive. When complete, the camp will provide shelter for 1,600 families, or about 9,600 individuals.

Displaced children in Iraq draw pictures of peace
HARSHAM CAMP, Iraq, 21 September 2016 – On International Day of Peace, children in Harsham Camp share their drawings of peace.

Families adrift in northern Iraq
DEBAGA CAMP, Iraq, 20 September 2016 – Residents of Iraq’s Debaga camp, whose population has swelled from 5,000 to 38,000 people in under 6 months, talk about fleeing their homes and the challenges of camp life.

Mobile school brings refugees new hope
KAWA, Iraq, 18 September 2016 – A mobile school provides learning opportunities for out of school children in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

A healthy start for babies born in displacement camps in Iraq
DEBAGA CAMP, Iraq, 15 September 2016 – Find out how three health volunteers are making sure babies born in Debaga camp, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, have a healthy start in life.

This month at the Erbil Portal
HARSHAM CAMP, Iraq, 14 September 2016 – Activities at the portal have included saxophone and oud sessions, hip hop classes, interactive opera and more, connecting young Iraqis with visitors at UN headquarters in New York City.

A new day in Qayyarah, Iraq
QAYYARAH, Iraq, 13 September 2016 – A UNICEF security mission to Qayyarah reveals traumatized children and a water and sanitation emergency: oil contaminates the town’s drinking water source.

Planning for the worst, hoping for the best
KHANKE CAMP, Iraq, 11 September 2016 – As momentum builds to retake the city of Mosul, UNICEF’s Supply and Logistics team prepare to respond.

#EmergencyLessons: Walking to school
HARSHAM CAMP, Iraq, 4 September 2016 ¬– Join Ali and Gaith on their walk to school, through Harsham IDP camp in Iraq. These boys never thought they would miss the simple act of walking to school.

10-year-old Mirna fled from her hometown in Iraq in 2014
Iraq, 7 September 2016 – Mirna shows us her new life in a camp for displaced people and what she thinks our leaders should be doing to help children who’ve been forced from their homes.

Sheltering amid destruction in Haji Ali
HAJI ALI, Iraq, 2 September 2016 – UNICEF brings lifesaving supplies to displaced Iraqis sheltering in the ruins of Haji Ali, a village in the Mosul corridor.
“This really changed my life”
Iraq, 31 August 2016 – Displaced children in Iraq are able to resume their education thanks to UNICEF-supported schools like Amerli School in Missan Governorate and Al-Jawhari School in Muthanna Governorate.

Refugee educators keep up with the latest teaching methods
BASIRMA CAMP, Iraq, 30 August 2016 – Tafra and her family have lived in Basirma refugee camp for 3 years, since they fled Syria. She is a teacher at the camp school, and is proud of what they have achieved, with UNICEF support.

Improving camp life through better design
QORATU CAMP, Iraq, 28 August 2016 – Families in Qoratu camp are part of an international project to improve on the jerry can, one of the most vital of all humanitarian supplies. UNICEF’s Supply Division is field-testing a new design that is lighter, more durable, and easier to carry.

What is life like as a UNICEF field worker?
19 August 2016 – Ahmad Al Rashid, who worked for UNICEF in Iraq helping refugees and internally displaced families, talks about what it was like being a humanitarian worker, and why he finally had to leave the country and make the dangerous journey to Europe.

Preparing for the deluge, a camp in Iraq is quickly built from scratch
DEBAGA, Iraq, 09 August 2016 – In late 2015, the Debaga displacement camp in Iraq opened as a site to shelter families that were displaced nearby. The number of residents in the camp has since increased tenfold and continues to grow, putting a strain on resources and the people living inside.

Supporting the health of children who’ve escaped conflict
NAZRAWA CAMP, Iraq, 24 July 2016 – UNICEF-supported primary health care clinic in the camp provides services including growth monitoring and nutrition supplementation for children, and vaccines against measles, polio and other diseases. Health teams go door to door to ensure that children are healthy and immunized.

Iraq moves forward on positive discipline
DUHOK, Iraq, 21 July 2016 – School supervisor Mohammed Ali looks to positive discipline to help displaced students and teachers solve problems without resorting to violent punishment. This can be challenging, because being in a camp creates a feeling of confinement for students. “We must help them to solve their problems in other ways,” says Mr. Ali. “Harsh punishment creates bad feelings about education, and toward teachers.”

Virtual Obama meets a young Iraqi entrepreneur
ERBIL, Iraq, 14 July 2016 – What looks like an abandoned pumping station in Harsham Camp on the outskirts of Erbil is actually a Portal. Camp residents, displaced Iraqis from Mosul, worked tirelessly to effect the transformation. The immersive audiovisual technology they helped set up allowed Ali Ismail, a young entrepreneur from Baghdad, to chat with President Obama, as if they were in the same room.

Cash assistance helps children in Iraq catch up on education
ERBIL, Iraq, 4 July 2016 – Isra and her family have been displaced twice — first from their home in Damascus, then from the Syrian town of Hasakah. Now settled in a village on the outskirts of Erbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Isra is restarting her education at a local school, with the help of a UNICEF-supported cash grant programme.

What would you hold onto if you were forced to flee home?
Iraq, 3 July 2016 – More than 3.3 million people in Iraq have fled their homes because of conflict. Here, displaced children and their families in Iraq talk to each other about what they remember most about home.

#EmergencyLessons: Friendship
ERBIL, Iraq, 12 June 2016 – Malak and Rapu will never underestimate the value of friendship. After fleeing their homes in Iraq and Syria, they became good friends at a school for displaced children.

Childhoods cut short
Iraq, 10 June 2016 – The conflict and humanitarian crisis in Iraq are pushing more children out of school and into the workforce. In 2011, 6 per cent of Iraqi children aged 5 to 14 were involved in child labour. Given the economic decline since the conflict escalated in 2014, this figure is now likely to be much higher.

Beauty school builds skills and friendships
AMEDI, Iraq, 30 May 2016 – A vocational training programme in Amedi, Iraq, teaches hairdressing and makeup skills to help young women earn a living – and also encourages social cohesion among locals, displaced Iraqis, and Syrian refugees. Once trained, the women work in a salon operated by the programme.

© UNICEF Iraq/2016/Niles
Practicing handwashing with soap, Qoratu displacement camp, Garmyan, Iraq.

Providing safe water in “The Hot Place”
GARMYAN, Iraq, 12 April 2016 – Mina, 9, went all the way to Sulaymaniyah to find a traditional Kurdish dress and hat, so she could get all dressed up to learn about handwashing and water conservation at her school in Qoratu Displacement Camp in Garmyan, near the Iranian border. With summer temperatures reaching 50° C, safe water and sanitation are critical.

Children’s theatre workshops build confidence on stage and off
6 April 2016 – The stage buzzes with activity the day before opening night of a children’s play at a youth centre in Dohuk. Workers set up lighting while children jump out from behind a thick velvet curtain to practice their lines on stage with an instructor.

In photos: Five years of war has changed this family forever
17 March 2016 – Much has changed in the world over the past five years. Yet for a generation of Syria’s children, the suffering caused by the long and brutal conflict has continued. 

“I sing about my homeland and how sweet it is.”
15 February 2016 – Hosting 15,000 people who’ve been displaced by conflict, Bajet Kandala Camp is high on a hill in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, with rolling pasture all around.

Abandoning female genital mutilation, one village at a time
MURTKA, Iraq, 26 January 2016 — They remembered the day they were cut as if it was yesterday. Most said it happened around the age of five or six. To them, it’s the day they lost their trust in the person who brought them into this world — their mothers.

Iraq makes important gains for school children
Iraq, 28 December 2015 – Iraq has taken an important step towards eliminating physical violence in classrooms, like that experienced by 12-year-old Khawla.

A young Iraqi uses talent and compassion to face an unfair life
ERBIL, Iraq, 25 November 2015 – Out of school, without his parents and living in a camp for displaced people, an Iraqi boy takes a creative approach to making a better future for himself and the generation growing up amid conflict.

Designing schools to meet children’s needs
Iraq, 1 October 2015 – As we approach a primary school in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, we see it surrounded by a neat garden and enclosed by brightly painted walls. Its hallways are clean and quiet, and children’s paintings and craft work line the classrooms.

Cash and the dignity of decision in Iraq
Iraq, 22 September 2015 – Cash-based assistance allows families to make their own decisions about their needs and priorities, and to do so with dignity.

Healing through movement and art
Iraq, 14 September 2015 – “I feel the earth, I feel the sky, I feel myself.” About 30 children from Besirve Camp for displaced Iraqi citizens, near Zakho in northern Iraq, have gathered in a circle. It’s early morning and rain clouds gather above.

“I couldn’t imagine that we were finally united.”
ERBIL, Iraq, 30 July 2015 – Kidnapped by militants and held captive for months on end, a mother and son are reunited with the boy’s father. While the family now lives safely in a camp for displaced people, the emotional wounds remain – as they do for tens of thousands of children in Iraq affected by conflict.

Empowering Yazidi women through photography
Iraq, 24 June 2015 – Bushra and other young women are enthusiastic participants in a photography workshop in Khanke displacement Camp. With funding from the Government of Italy, and facilitation by partners RDO, the aim of the workshop is to empower young Yazidi women through photography.

From Syria to Iraq, knitting their lives
DOHUK, Iraq, 12 March 2015 – A day in the life of a teenage girl in Domiz refugee camp typically includes a half day at school followed by housework and chores for the remaining of the day.

UNICEF reaches displaced children in Iraq's Sinjar Province
DOHUK, Iraq, 2 July 2014 – UNICEF said today it made its first delivery of essential humanitarian supplies to Sinjar, a town in the western Ninevah Governorate of Iraq, to assist some of the thousands of people who fled there over the past few days.

Iraq information in French:

13 millions d’enfants non scolarisés à cause du conflit au Moyen-Orient et en Afrique du Nord
AMMAN, 3 septembre 2015 – D’après un rapport de l’UNICEF publié aujourd’hui, l’intensification du conflit et les troubles politiques au Moyen-Orient et en Afrique du Nord empêchent plus de 13 millions d’enfants de se rendre à l’école.

En Iraq, amener de l’eau en altitude
QASHAFAR, Iraq, 9 juin 2015 – Pour atteindre un groupe de familles iraquiennes réfugiées sur un plateau isolé non desservi en eau, l’équipe de l’UNICEF adopte une approche créative de l’approvisionnement en eau.

Quelque 14 millions d’enfants subissent les effets du conflit en Syrie et en Iraq, affirme l’UNICEF
NEW YORK/AMMAN, 12 mars 2015 – Environ 14 millions d’enfants de la région subissent actuellement les conséquences d’un conflit qui se propage en Syrie et dans une grande partie de l’Iraq, a affirmé l’UNICEF aujourd’hui.

De plus

Iraq information in Spanish:

Los conflictos dejan a 13 millones de niños sin escuela en Oriente Medio y África del Norte
AMMAN, 3 de septiembre de 2015 – Los conflictos y la agitación política cada vez más graves que sacuden Oriente Medio y África del Norte impiden a más de 13 millones de niños ir a la escuela, según un informe de UNICEF publicado hoy.

En Iraq, cuesta arriba con el agua
QASHAFAR, Iraq, 9 de junio de 2015 – El equipo de UNICEF concibe un enfoque creativo para proveer agua a un grupo de familias iraquíes que viven refugiadas en un remoto altiplano donde carecen de suministro.

Crear espacios seguros para la infancia en los entornos de refugiados de Irak
ERBIL, Irak, 11 de mayo de 2015 – Gracias a un programa puesto en marcha con ayuda de UNICEF, los niños y niñas iraquíes que viven desplazados de sus hogares en refugios provisionales tienen oportunidad de disfrutar su infancia de nuevo.


Iraq information in Arabic


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