UNICEF believes all children have a right to survive, thrive and fulfill their potential – to the benefit of a better world.
In 1984, UNICEF established an office in Iraq. In 1990, following the first Gulf war, UNICEF implemented an emergency programme to meet the humanitarian needs of children and women. Throughout the sanctions era of the 1990s, UNICEF focused on rehabilitating social services, providing life-saving therapeutic feeding to severely malnourished children and assisting the most vulnerable children. In 1997, via the “Oil for Food” programme, UNICEF addressed the deteriorating health situation of children, the increasing number of school drop-outs and the protection of children deprived of care.
From 2003-2008, UNICEF ensured emergency access to water and sanitation, primary health care, nutrition, education and child protection services for millions of children and women affected by extreme violence. In 2009, UNICEF reoriented its country programme to support the Government of Iraq develop child-friendly social policies, modernize its institutions and improve the nationwide delivery of basic services critical to the future survival and development of children.
In 2012-2013 as the conflict in Syria brought 250,000 refugees to the Kurdistan region, UNICEF established water and sanitation, education, health, and child protection services in refugee camps and in host communities.
Since 2014, when internal conflict uprooted millions of Iraqis and placed millions more in need of humanitarian assistance, UNICEF has been working with its partners to meet critical, life -saving needs as well as providing emergency and longer term programmes which support children and families.
UNICEF's Country Office is located in Baghdad. Field Offices are located in Erbil, Dohuk, Baghdad and Basra. UNICEF also maintains a field presence in Sulaymaniyah.
UNICEF's overall goal is to support the Government of Iraq in realizing the rights of all Iraq's children to survival, development, protection and participation, and the creation of an enabling environment to ensure strengthened accountabilities for children with an equity approach. UNICEF works to improve the situation of children in Iraq through key interventions.
Country Programme 2020-2024
The country programme of cooperation is designed to support the Government of Iraq, at national and subnational levels, to accelerate the realization of rights for all children in Iraq. The vision of this country programme is that “by 2024, children, adolescents and women in Iraq are better protected and have more equitable and inclusive access to quality basic services.” The theory of change supports the Government to develop an enabling environment at national and subnational levels to ensure that all girls and boys survive and thrive, learn, and are protected from violence and neglect on a sustainable basis.
The programme is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is aligned with UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2018–2021 and Gender Action Plan, 2018–2021 and is consistent with the key pillars of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) 2020–2024. Its outcomes support national priorities in the National Development Plan 2018–2022, the Poverty Reduction Strategy 2018–2022, and the Kurdistan Regional Government ‘Vision 2020’.
The programme addresses gaps in the enabling environment, including social norms; access to and quality of basic services (supply) as well as demand for services. To address the long-term impact of conflict and exposure to violence on the mental health and psychosocial well-being of children, adolescents, their caregivers and communities, a multisectoral risk-informed approach is required, relying on community structures and mechanisms. UNICEF will strengthen decentralized capacities for the effective, equitable and integrated provision of services, especially in geographic areas with pockets of higher vulnerability and greater disparities. While maintaining a sectoral programme structure, based on the multidimensional nature of Iraqi poverty, multisectoral programming will be applied for early childhood and adolescence.
Ms. Sheema Sen Gupta has been appointed as the UNICEF Representative in Iraq on 23 January 2021.
Ms. Sen Gupta has a long UNICEF career, spanning both development and complex humanitarian contexts.
Prior to her appointment to Iraq, Ms. Sen Gupta was the Deputy Representative of UNICEF Afghanistan since February 2019 and has assumed the role of Representative a.i. from November 2020 until April 2021.
As Deputy Representative, Ms. Sen Gupta was responsible for the Programme delivery of the UNICEF Afghanistan Country Programme which focused on supporting the Government of Afghanistan in making sustainable changes in systems, policy and service delivery to ensure that the rights of women and children are realized. Prior to this, she occupied a similar role with UNICEF Bangladesh where she led the development programme, as well as the humanitarian response to the Rohingya refugee crisis with over 60% of the refugees, were children and women.
Between 2011 and 2016, Ms. Sen Gupta was the Chief of Child Protection Programme in UNICEF Somalia – one of UNICEF’s largest and most complex Child Protection Programmes. Ms. Sen Gupta is well experienced in human rights in complex emergencies, in particular, negotiating children’s and women’s rights in crisis and fragile situations.
Ms. Sen Gupta’s career with UNICEF began in Child Protection, with a focus on developing Psychosocial Support Programmes for UNICEF’s emergency response, and this took her mostly to countries in crisis. In the last 19 years, she worked in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Ghana, Somalia, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Ms. Sheema Sen Gupta, a Malaysian national, received her Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Calcutta University and a senior leadership certificate from Judge Business School, Cambridge University, United Kingdome. She began her professional career as a Psychologist and Counsellor in the Crisis Intervention Centre in Calcutta. After 8 years of practice and managing the programme on Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation and HIV/AIDS Counselling Support Services, she was invited to join UNICEF India’s Child Protection Programme.