Every child has the right to an equitable chance in life
Poverty in childhood can have life-long consequences. Children who do not reach their full potential cannot contribute fully to social, political and economic growth, and those who grow up in poverty are more likely to be poor when they are older, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and disadvantage.
In Iraq, impoverished children grapple with disrupted education, malnutrition, conflict and violence undermining their rights and abilities to reach their full potential. Nearly half of Iraqi children - 47 per cent (8.7 million) are multidimensionally poor, meaning that there are more than 8 million children in Iraq who are living in multidimensional poverty.
Yet poor children and poor households are not the main beneficiaries of the range of social protection systems available to Iraqis. In order to come close to making Iraq a promising place for children again, breaking this vicious cycle of poverty and deprivation is vital for a brighter future and harnessing the potential of Iraq's youth population.
In Iraq, fragmented social protection schemes hinder efficiency and coverage, leading to exclusion errors and insufficient support. The absence of a cohesive strategy further aggravates issues, causing duplication of efforts and misallocation of resources. Lack of reliable and updated data, insufficient social protection workforce, outdated social protection law, inconsistent work processes, and lack of job descriptions for social protection staff are among the main challenges facing the social protection sector.
Vulnerable groups face various hardships, despite government and non-governmental efforts. The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the necessity of robust social protection measures. Outdated information systems compound challenges in program evaluation and decision-making.
Investment in social protection programmes is crucial for addressing poverty and inequality and promoting inclusive economic growth.
Public Finance for Children (PF4C)
With a growing adolescent and youth population, Iraq faces the challenge of scaling up education and social services. Macroeconomic projections indicate inadequate expenditure to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 10 signalling a break in development. Iraq's fiscal revenue growth will not match the population growth, requiring a fundamental shift in financing social sectors for equitable, efficient, and sustainable service delivery.
People with Disabilities
Decades of conflict and economic hardship have deeply affected persons with disabilities in Iraq. Efforts to address their challenges face hurdles such as limited resources, institutional capacity, stigma, and a charity-focused instead of a rights-based approach. Iraq hosts one of the world's largest populations with disabilities. A survey in safe provinces showed varying percentage of persons with disabilities: 14.8 per cent with visual impairment, 9.2 per cent with hearing impairment, 42.4 per cent with physical impairment, 21 per cent with intellectual disabilities, and about 12 per cent with communication-related disabilities. Children with disabilities confront barriers to education, healthcare, and employment due to discrimination and inadequate support, exacerbated by ongoing conflict. Many lack access to social protection programmes due to barriers and limited implementation.
Iraq is ranked the 5th most vulnerable country to water and food shortages and extreme temperatures according to the United Nations Global Environment Outlook 6 (GEO-6). Climate change exacerbates water scarcity, extreme heat, drought, and desertification. Over seven million Iraqis are affected, triggering displacement and health issues, while intensified natural disasters heighten risks. Urgent action from the government, civil society, and international community is essential to mitigate climate impacts and adapt to change for a sustainable future
 Alkire, S. (2023). Iraq National Multidimensional Poverty Index and Child-Adjusted Multidimensional Poverty Index (2022) - Presentation. Baghdad: Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).
 Iraq: 2022 Article IV Consultation-Staff Report (2022) Imf.org. Available at: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2023/02/03/Iraq-2022-Article-IV-Consultation-Press-Release-and-Staff-Report-529146 (Accessed: August 10, 2023).
 Khalil Al-Ezzawi, Hashem., 2019 Summary of Iraq National Report On Sustainable Development Goals & the CRPD. Pg 5 https://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/sites/default/files/final_iraqi_national_report_in_english_0.docx.
 UNICEF (2023) Climate Landscape Analysis For Children And Young People In Iraq, Unicef.org. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/iraq/media/2896/file/CLAC%20-%20Executive%20summary%20-%20EN.pdf (Accessed: August 22, 2023).
By 2024, children and adolescents, especially the most vulnerable, have improved access to equitable, integrated and adequately financed basic services and social protection, and contribute to a cohesive, peaceful, and resilient Iraqi society.
In alignment with Sustainable Development Goal 1, UNICEF collaborates with the Government of Iraq and partners to reduce child poverty by 50 per cent by 2030 and bolster social protection systems. Beyond monetary poverty, UNICEF focuses on measuring and monitoring various aspects of child well-being. The initiative aims to enhance national capacities in data usage for policy decisions, ensuring strategic research and analysis on child poverty inform evidence-based planning, programming, and budgeting at both national and subnational levels.
Strengthening social protection coverage and child focus:
UNICEF is actively engaged in enhancing social protection initiatives in Iraq with a child-centric focus. UNICEF is implementing a child-sensitive cash transfer programme to reach under-5 children and school-aged children, integrating health and education services. This initiative aims to address their exclusion, enhance access to essential basic services, and promote human development. Additionally, UNICEF assists in upgrading the Management Information System (MIS) for the Social Safety Net (SSN) programme, linking multiple programmes for efficient targeting, monitoring and evaluation, fostering transparency. By advocating for policy reform and strengthening the social protection system, UNICEF is working to bridge gaps in children's access to essential services and ensure that disadvantaged families can invest in their children's well-being.
Children with Disabilities
UNICEF supports the Government of Iraq in establishing disability-sensitive systems and ensuring children with disabilities benefit from evidence-based social protection programmes. UNICEF's Social Policy Section focuses on data and evidence generation for informed decision-making and policy recommendations. This includes a comprehensive analysis of disability-related challenges, social protection availability, and policy inclusivity. In addition, capacity-building initiatives include the development and integration of disability-inclusive courses with universities for staff, social workers, and frontline workers to enhance disability awareness. Moreover, cross-sectoral coordination with the government, UN sister agencies and other development actors involves establishing task forces, committees, and groups at various levels to ensure efficient implementation and adherence to the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy.
Public Finance for Children (PF4C)
Investing in Iraq's youth is crucial for harnessing the demographic dividend and ensuring lasting peace and prosperity. While a growing working-age population offers potential, this hinges on bolstering human capital through social sector improvements. Adequate social funding is pivotal for economic diversification and inclusive growth. Per capita public spending decline risks hampering human capital investment. Amid cyclical budget and macroeconomic uncertainties, creating fiscal space for social sectors is vital. Addressing structural challenges like oil dependency, debt, capacity issues, and service delivery is essential for efficient social sector budget management and equity enhancement.