Ongoing conflict in Iraq has left a total of 11 million people, including 5.1 million children, in need of humanitarian assistance. Children make up almost half of the 3 million Iraqis displaced by the conflict. Many of Iraq’s camps are operating beyond capacity, and families live in overcrowded conditions. Children are in danger of separation from their families, abduction, recruitment into the fighting, and sexual violence. Living amidst armed conflict – including exposure to mines and improvised explosive devices – puts them at risk of death and injury, and threatens their long-term mental health and future development.
Meanwhile, damaged and overstretched water and sanitation infrastructure and weakened health systems put children’s health and survival in jeopardy. At least 70 per cent of displaced children have missed a whole year of school. UNICEF has been working with partners to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of children and families – providing access to safe water and sanitation, education, protection, health and nutrition services. UNICEF also operates Child-Friendly Spaces, where children can find respite through play, learning and psychosocial support, to help them cope with the ordeals they’ve been through.
The desperate situation of Iraqi children has been largely created by the international community, the US and UK in particular. Iraq has been exposed to:
* two decades of sanctions and punitive reparation payments which have hit the most vulnerable members of society;
* the destruction of vital civilian infrastructure through targeted bombing;
* the collapse of state apparatus after the 2003 invasion;
* continuous military violence and the opening of the country to other fundamentalist forces;
* a constitution founded on ethnic and religious division and US/UK support of sectarian and misogynist factions; corrupt governance