Humanitarian Action for Children 2021 - Iraq (Revised July 2021)

Originally published



  • Following the 2014–2017 conflict, which displaced over 6 million people, an estimated 4.1 million people, including 1.8 million children, need humanitarian assistance in Iraq. The country is also severely affected by the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, with nearly 1.3 million confirmed cases and over 16,900 deaths.

  • UNICEF’s multi-pronged humanitarian strategy in Iraq includes the provision of integrated critical services to save young lives and system strengthening for a sustained impact. To support an effective transition from humanitarian assistance to longer-term development,
    UNICEF will facilitate strong linkages between humanitarian action and development programming.

  • UNICEF is requesting US$ 65.9 million to meet the critical and acute humanitarian needs of children and families affected by a combination of humanitarian situations, including protracted crisis due to conflict, political instability and the COVID-19 situation. The response will focus both on prevention and on the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.


2.7 million children vaccinated against polio

180,443 children/caregivers accessing mental health and psychosocial support

449,300 people accessing a sufficient quantity of safe water

447,786 children accessing educational services


The humanitarian crisis in Iraq stems primarily from the 2014–2017 conflict, which led to the displacement of 6 million people.
There has been a steady stream of returnees, with 4.9 million people returning to their places of origin, and 1.2 million people still displaced.
In late 2020, the Government of Iraq (GOI) resumed the closure of camps and large informal sites for Internally Displaced People (IDPs).
Consequently, the total number of in-camp individuals dropped from 256,861 in August 2020 to 185,000 . The number of out-of-camp IDPs increased from 104,000 in October 2020 to over 275,000 in February 2021 .
Additionally, an estimated 4.87 million individuals are returnees.
Overall, 4.1 million people, including 1.8 million children, continue to need humanitarian assistance. This includes 2.4 million people (1,056,000 children and 15 per cent people with disabilities) facing acute humanitarian needs.
The country is also severely affected by COVID-19, with the number of new cases increasing from 900 per day in January to more than 5,040 per day by mid-June 2021.
The political, economic and social instability in Iraq is challenging the humanitarian response.
Security remains a major concern, with continued attacks and violence. During the first quarter of 2021, ISIS operations increased, mainly within the disputed areas and Baghdad. The demonstrations and unrest in the southern governorates also escalated and were confronted with force and violence by security forces.

The reduction in oil prices has led to a severe economic downturn, which has further exacerbated humanitarian needs for the most vulnerable. The number of children living below the poverty line has doubled to 38 per cent. While maternal mortality has declined, neonatal deaths remain high (56 per cent of under-five mortality). At least 200,000 infants are missing out on routine life-saving vaccinations against preventable childhood diseases.

Due to both COVID-19 and displacement, 1.3 million IDP and returnee children face obstacles to accessing education, while some 1.7 million children are in need of child protection and gender-based violence support. According to a remote monitoring exercise conducted by UNICEF in 2020, commonly reported issues include lack of access to education; stress, fear and anxiety; child labour; and violence, abuse or neglect within the household. While more than 86 per cent of people in Iraq have access to basic drinking water, only 39 per cent have access to safely managed water services. Only 24 per cent of the population has access to safely managed sanitation services.