Four years after start of the 2003 conflict, Iraq's children are facing an enormous challenge. Their long-cherished hope for a normal childhood - enjoying health care, school services, family life and a stable community - is being swept away by violence and displacement. Every day, more and more children are losing family members, friends and neighbours, school days, their health, their hopes - and even their lives.
Since 2003, nearly 15 per cent of Iraq's total population have fled their homes - 50 per cent of them children. Out of an estimated 4 million displaced Iraqis, approximately 1.9 million have sought refuge inside Iraq (around 700,000 in 2006 alone) and 2.2 million have crossed the border into neighbouring countries according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Amongst those fleeing are doctors, nurses and teachers - a devastating brain-drain leaving many Iraqi schoolchildren without access to quality education and basic health care. More than 750,000 Iraqis have sought safety in Jordan and over 1.25 million in Syria where, despite support from government and local communities, they now face an uncertain future. Iraq's children, already casualties of a quarter of a century of conflict and deprivation, are being caught up in a rapidly worsening humanitarian tragedy.
Despite a strong response from the international community, the needs of Iraq's vulnerable young citizens are quickly outstripping available help. Regional resources to cope with the influx are being stretched to the limit. Inside Iraq and abroad, families are spending the last of their life savings to rent homes and to purchase basic supplies for survival. Many people are now reaching the very limit of their coping strategies. The need to act is urgent. UNICEF is therefore requesting US$ 41,750,000 to step up its humanitarian relief effort for vulnerable Iraqi children and women in Iraq, Jordan and Syria over the next six months.