Date Published: 23 May 2007
UNICEF calls for aid to Iraqi children
$42 million required to meet immediate needs of children in Iraq, Jordan and Syria
Conditions for Iraqi children affected by violence and displacement have reached a critical point, according to UNICEF. The children’s organization requires $42 million to provide relief over the next six months for children inside Iraq, as well as those who fled with their families to neighbouring Jordan and Syria.
“ Humanitarian aid offers a lifeline to Iraq’s children and stepping up support now is the best way to protect and invest in Iraq’s future,” said Daniel Toole, Acting Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Chief of Emergency Operations.
“ Plans are in place to reach Iraq’s most vulnerable children with basic health, water, sanitation and education support – particularly displaced children living in host communities, as well as children living in Iraq’s most violent districts.”
UNICEF will also help the Jordanian and Syrian governments in providing quality social services for the growing population of Iraqi children. Initial priorities in these countries include ensuring that Iraqi children have full access to the classroom, health care and protection from exploitation.
Since 2003, nearly 15% of Iraq’s population have fled their homes - four million people, half of them children. Many are seeking refuge in communities that are already poor or hit by violence, pressuring already weakened social services. Those seeking refuge outside Iraq face an uncertain future. Complications over residency status may deter many from seeking health care or enrolling children in school. Among those fleeing are thousands of doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers – key service providers for children. Added to the deaths of so many fathers in the violence, this exodus is robbing Iraq’s children of essential pillars of support.
“ Iraq’s drain of care-givers is creating major gaps in children’s daily lives, an issue often overlooked amid the violence,” said Roger Wright, UNICEF Special Representative for Iraq.
“ We need to fill these gaps to address the most debilitating effects of the insecurity. Conditions for too many Iraqi children are deteriorating,” he added.
Last week Iraq reported its first suspected cholera cases of the year (all of them children), increasing fears of a serious outbreak over the summer months. The deterioration of Iraq’s water and sanitation systems means only an estimated 30 per cent of children have access to safe water. Health services are becoming increasingly hard to access. And with many schools hit hard by insecurity and overcrowding, too few children are completing this school year with a quality education.
Toole said that Iraq is simply not secure enough to deliver a full range of assistance in many areas. But he stressed it is still possible to help a large number of children in need. A recent UNICEF and WHO-supported national Measles, Mumps and Rubella immunization campaign has just reached 3.6 million children (90% of its goal) in a house-to-house campaign, partly funded by the European Commission. Such generous international support to Iraq must continue, especially for children, until the Government of Iraq can provide for its own, he added.
“ Our experience operating daily inside Iraq confirms to us that aid does indeed reach children and makes a tremendous impact, even in extremely insecure areas.” Toole said.