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News note

After war, child friendly space give Iraqi children a chance to play

UNICEF is helping a community in Baghdad give their children a chance to play again after months of war, chaos and insecurity

BAGHDAD/ 7 August 2003 – With Iraq still in a state of post-war crisis, UNICEF and Italian NGO – INTERSOS, are spending the summer break providing Iraqi children with a chance to play.

The two organizations have teamed up in Al-Baya’a District in western Baghdad to work with the local community in creating a Child Friendly Space where the community’s children can gather, play games, socialize, and overcome the traumas of war in a safe and friendly environment.

According to UNICEF Representative in Iraq, Mr Carel de Rooy, providing safe and fun activities for children is one of the most important ways of helping children put the war behind them.

“Iraqi children have had to endure great hardships over the past four moths,” he said. “They have lived through terrible bombings, the chaos that erupted after the fall of Baghdad, and the continued lawlessness and violence on the capital’s streets. Now more than ever, they simply need a chance to play and feel safe,” he concluded.

When completed, the Child Friendly Space initiative will link together a theatre, a swimming pool, a play ground, and a recreation centre in the community. All of the streets joining these facilities together will be part of the Child Friendly Space and the local community will work together to keep the area safe and clean for their children.

“This is probably the first project in Iraq where the community itself is taking on the responsibility for the success of the project,” de Rooy said. “INTERSOS and UNICEF are working with the community to get the whole project established and to provide support and guidance, but the community has to take a leading role for this to be a success and they are really getting behind it.”

So far, the local school has been turned into a recreation centre for the neighbourhood children. They have the chance to sign up for classes in painting, sculpture, carpentry, sewing and drama. They also get to play sports. Within a few weeks, the swimming pool and the park will also open to help accommodate the more than 600 children that have signed up for the various activities.

UNICEF will be working to establish other Child Friendly Spaces in Baghdad over the coming months.

“When you go to the recreation centre, you can see the impact this is having on the children,” said de Rooy. “They are so excited and it is such a release for them. The children just gravitate towards the centre every morning.”

“After everything these children have been through, watching their excitement as they get a chance to play again, without worry or fear, this is what we work for.”

For further information, please contact:

Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Iraq +1-914-360 3143 gkeele@unicef.org
Damien Personnaz, UNICEF Geneva +41-22-909 5517 dpersonnaz@unicef.org
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York +1-212-326 7426 gweiss@unicef.org
Anis Salem, UNICEF Regional Office +962-6-553-9977 asalem@unicef.org

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Read all about UNICEF’s action in Iraq at www.unicef.org





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