COVID-19 and its impact threaten to undo many of the achievements made in Iraq and around the world on the path to fulfilling the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
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Baghdad, 20 November 2020 – As the world marks the anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention of the Right of the Child, or CRC, on this World Children’s Day, it has become clear that children and adolescents in Iraq are those most at risk losing out as a result of COVID-19 and its secondary impacts.
The latest assessments by UNICEF and its partners show that the number of children and adolescents who risk falling into poverty and to lose out on their rights has doubled from 1 to 2 out of every 5 children, or up to 40% all children in the country. Unemployment and growing financial pressures on families, lack of access to schooling and healthcare are among the factors.
“Iraq is a signatory of the CRC, which means that it is committed to ensure that every child can practice all her or his rights, including the right to health, safety, freedom, education, clean water, and play. We are now seeing the number of girls and boys in Iraq who risk losing out on many of these rights grow at an alarming rate and as a result of the unintended consequences of the pandemic. The pandemic risks to undo many of the achievements that Iraq has made in fulfilling its commitments under the Convention,” explained Ms. Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, the UN’s Deputy Special Representative and Resident Coordinator for Iraq.
While symptoms among infected children and adolescents remain mild, the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on the education, nutrition and well-being can be life-altering. Poverty is on the rise as a result of unemployment, and violence against children appears to be growing. With schools and other learning spaces closed and disruptions to healthcare services, it has become more difficult for some children and adolescents to continue learning and access essential basic healthcare such as routine vaccinations on time.
“We in Iraq cannot afford to stand by as this is going on. On this World Children’s Day, UNICEF renews our commitment to support the Federal government and the Kurdish regional government to ensure that every boy and girl grows up healthy and safe. We also urge the authorities to invest more impactfully in the services and social protection needed to support children and their families,” added Ms. Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF’s Representative in Iraq.
Since COVID-19 broke out, UNICEF has worked tirelessly to alleviate the impact of the pandemic on children. The children’s agency is providing water, hygiene and sanitation services in all IDPs camps and host communities, and it has mobilized over 400 youth volunteers across the country who are helping to promote hygiene and safe social distancing practices within their communities. It is also leading coordinating the UN’s effort in Iraq to reach families with correct information about COVID-19 online and offline
In addition, UNICEF is training 30,000 healthcare workers in infection-prevention control and other skills to help them practice primary healthcare in their communities and it delivered much needed essential health services, including by going tent to tent to deliver immunization in a safe manner. As a result, the agency was able to help to close the gap in immunization by stabilizing the decline in the number of children receiving their vaccinations as a result of the pandemic.
In order to ensure that children can continue to learn, UNICEF supported the establishment of a satellite educational channel and multiple online learning platforms, helping to bring the classroom into the homes of over 2.5 million of hard to reach students in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. It also provided protection gear, hygiene and sanitation for over 400,000 children and educators at exam centres in schools in camps for the internally displaced.
UNICEF is also working with the federal Ministry of Planning to design an emergency cash transfer to support the poorest and most vulnerable households affected by COVID-19 as they struggle to meet their basic needs. This is part of the agency’s work to help build up the capacity building of Iraqi government institutions and social protection system.
“UNICEF, and the UN family as a whole, is committed to long-term and durable solutions in the whole of Iraq. We look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners in the government in order to make sure that no child in Iraq is left behind and every girl and boy has an equal chance at living a full and equitable life, as per the Convention of the Rights of the Child,” added Ms. Vojáčková-Sollorano.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.