“Iraq’s children have endured incredible hardship over the last couple of decades, with hundreds of thousands suffering from the brutal effects of violence and inhumane deprivation” he said. “It is now time to change that.”
Mr. Al-Sahir is one of the most prominent musicians ever produced by Iraq and one of the most followed stars in the region.
Long an advocate for Iraq’s youth, he started raising awareness about their suffering in 1998 with ‘Tathakkar’ (‘Remember’), a song about children caught in conflict. The song garnered a UNICEF award for making an outstanding contribution to improve the lives of children in need. In 2004, Mr. Al-Sahir also gave a concert that benefitted over 50,000 children in the Middle East.
‘Together for Children’
Continuing in this spirit, Mr. Al-Sahir today launched a new song – ‘Together for Children’ – as a call to action.
To highlight the courage of children in Iraq over the years, he sings, “Has there been anyone who has seen the hardships you have seen? You overcame the boundaries of fear and deprivation.”
Calling on all segments of Iraqi society to help improve the situation of children, he adds, “Let’s join UNICEF in its march to stop the death, the disease, the neglect and the poverty. Let’s help the child victims of wars. Come, let’s do something to change their hardships into prosperity. Come, let’s work together.”
Issues facing Iraq’s children
In the 1970s, Iraq was one of the best countries in the Middle East and North Africa to be a child, but due to decades of war and neglect, it has become one of the worst. Some of the issues facing Iraq’s 15 million children now include the following:
- Each year, around 35,000 infants die before reaching their first birthday
- Over 1.5 million children under the age of five are undernourished
- Around 700,000 children are not enrolled in primary school, while hundreds of thousands more drop out before graduating
- 2.5 million children do not have access to safe water, and 3.5 million lack adequate sanitation facilities
- Around 800,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working.
In his capacity as a UNICEF ambassador, Mr. Al-Sahir will focus on the plight of children in the greatest need, who face many of these problems simultaneously without the services to respond to them.
Towards a stable future
“Urgent action is needed to provide opportunities that the most deprived children across Iraq deserve and have the right to have,” said Mr. Al-Sahir. “By creating the opportunities needed for these children to be able to grow up healthy and realize their full potential, Iraq will once again be on the path to be one of the best countries in the region to be a child, which will accelerate a future that is stable and prosperous for all.”
UNICEF is concluding its fourth Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in Iraq to help identify the country’s most disadvantaged children and families. When survey results are finalized at the end of this year, Mr. Al-Sahir is expected to announce the findings and call for investments in the services needed by those children who have been left behind.