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Press release

New study to assist Iraq’s most vulnerable children launched

UNICEF, in partnership with five international NGOs, undertakes study of the needs of Iraqi children made vulnerable by recent war and its aftermath.

BAGHDAD 26 June 2003 – UNICEF has teamed up with five international aid organizations to investigate the situation in which children live in Iraq today. The study will focus on the risks to children’s wellbeing and the coping mechanisms that exist within their families and communities to help them overcome the current challenges they face in post-war Iraq.

UNICEF’s partners include the Christian Children’s Fund, Save the Children UK, World Vision International, the International Rescue Committee and Save the Children US.

“This inter-agency assessment is the first of its kind to be taken at national level in Iraq,” said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF’s Representative in the country.

“Previously, it was virtually impossible to do in-depth surveys of street children, orphans or children living in institutions,” said de Rooy. “Until the late 1990s, the government here did not even recognize that child labour or children living in the streets even existed. That is why this new study is going to be so important to understanding of the needs of children in this country.”

The study is also important because it will cover all 18 governorates in Iraq collecting information from children themselves to ensure that their voices are heard and integrated into new programmes to assist them.

“Iraqi children understand better than anyone what the risks are that they face every day when they walk into the streets and schools of the country. And they know better than anybody what they need to improve their lives, to feel secure and to prosper,” added de Rooy.

The project will identify particularly vulnerable groups of children, including street children, working children, institutionalized children, and children in conflict with the law. It will map out where these children are, what their needs are and which areas of the country require particular attention. The study will also focus on the risks facing children, such as unexploded ordinances, child labour, and sexual violence.

According to de Rooy, while the assessment will identify the acute needs of children made vulnerable by the war, it will also enable the aid organizations conducting the survey to respond to the immediate needs of the children they come across.

“This is not just an assessment, it is a means for making contact with children so that UNICEF and our dedicated NGO partners can immediately assist any child we come in contact with who needs our support,” said de Rooy.

UNICEF is also working with the French NGO Enfant du Monde to care for and assist street children in Baghdad. UNICEF is in the process of identifying a building in the vicinity of the Palestine hotel, where many street children congregate, to use as a drop-in centre.

The centre will provide the children with a safe haven, a place to get away from the dangers of the street, to relax, to play games, or to talk with trained councillors.

UNICEF is also supporting a mobile drop-in centre, essentially a mobile home that drives around areas frequented by street children. The mobile centre will enable children to speak with qualified social workers, to clean up, or to just get off the street.

This will also enable UNICEF and Enfant du Monde to build up relationships with these children so we can find out from them what there needs are and how we as aid organizations can assist them best.

UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, foundations, businesses, and governments. Contributions to UNICEF's ongoing support for Iraq children can be made at http://www.supportunicef.org/

For further information, please contact:

Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Iraq (Baghdad),
Thuraya phone: (++88-2162 333 5948) or Sat. phone: (++873-762 86 9918)

M. Anis Salem, UNICEF – MENA Regional Office, Jordan, Mob.: (++962-79 557 9991)

Rawhi Abeidoh, UNICEF News Desk, (Amman) - Jordan, Mob.: (++962-79 504 2058)

For interviews in the region, write or call directly to the UNICEF News Desk in Amman:

(962-79) 504 2058




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