No lost generation: After ISIL, children in Iraq are given a second chance at learning, friendship, and life

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After the fall of so-called Islamic State (ISIL) and the recapture of Hawiga in October 2017, life is slowly returning to normal in the area. People are returning, and children are going back to school. However, many schools are in dire need of rehabilitation and lack supplies and learning materials. Since many boys and girls were not able to attend school in the last three years due to the conflict, they are now struggling to catch up whilst also processing the distress suffered through the war.

The past four years have been turmoil for the people of Hawiga district in northern Iraq. The ISIL occupation followed by military actions to retake the area in late 2017 pushed thousands of families out of their homes (REACH 2017), and left them facing severe shortages of food, water, and medicine. While occasional fighting continues in the district, more than 120,000 people have returned (IOM 2018). Returning, however, is not easy. This is especially true for children, who are amongst the most vulnerable.

Poverty and conflict have interrupted education for millions of children

Poverty and conflict have disrupted education for 3,000,000 children in the country (UNICEF 2018). Boys and girls across Iraq, including in Hawiga, have lost years of schooling. They have seen unprecedented levels of violence and often suffer from post-war distress. 74.1% of internally displaced children in Kirkuk province have witnessed “events beyond the normal boundaries of human experience” during the conflict, according to a survey by Public Aid Organization. Moreover, children are now exposed to new threats such as loss or separation from family, abuse, exploitation and security risks. According to the same survey, 22% of children live unaccompanied and separated from family.

Being exposed to violence for years, children need long-term protection and psychosocial support

The education and child protection services available in Iraq are severely limited and lack the capacity to cope with the increase in needs. To regain a sense of normalcy, children need a protective environment in the community. The children of today are tomorrow’s teachers, doctors, engineers and scientists. The restoration of education, as well as strengthening of child protection services, is critical in establishing stability and fostering the development of Iraq.

“That’s why we teamed up with ACTED, to support 3,000 children affected by the conflict in Hawiga. Both People in Need and ACTED have long term experience in addressing the education and protection needs of children in Iraq,” says Lorena Martin, Education in Emergencies Program Manager for People in Need (PIN).

Even though schools have started to reopen this year in Hawiga, they lack basic facilities and equipment as well as teaching and learning materials. “They have non-functional toilets, broken windowpanes, broken electricity infrastructure etc. In areas where returns have started, there are 60-70 students in one classroom. Schools in other areas, however, do not have more than 200 children yet. Most of the teaching staff are community volunteers who need capacity building on pedagogy and psychosocial support, and some of them do not get a salary,“ Lorena Martin described.

3,000 children affected by the conflict in Hawiga will be supported by People in Need and ACTED

PIN trains teachers and facilitators in how to use psychosocial support tools and recreational activities to reduce stress and foster their pupils' resilience. They learn how to teach catch-up and remedial classes, which help children who missed years of school during the ISIL occupation fill in the gaps of their education. Volunteer teachers who do not receive salary will also get incentives. Schools will also receive new teaching and learning materials and equipment such as air coolers, fans and water coolers to help ease discomfort during the hot summers. Outside the classrooms, PIN and ACTED will target children who are out of school with a “Back-to-School” campaign whilst raising awareness about child protection through community mobilisation.

Darby Lee, ACTED Child Protection Project Manager, adds: “ACTED will apply its expertise on implementing integrated Child Protection and Education services in West Mosul to the Hawiga context, notably through working with communities and providing case management to boys and girls affected by crisis in the aftermath of the war. Sustained case management services and community mobilisation activities will allow children to regain a sense of normalcy by creating a protective environment for them in the community as a whole.”

ACTED will continue providing case management for the most vulnerable children, including unaccompanied and separated children through psychological first aid, disseminating key messages within the community about the available services and referring specific cases to specialised service providers. ACTED will also further extend its community mobilisation and awareness-raising activities in Hawiga, facilitating sessions and campaigns for children and adults. It will focus on improving psychological well-being of children and their caregivers, empowering community members to work towards the protection of their children and to advocate for their own children's rights, contributing to building resilience and reducing future risks.

People in Need and its Alliance2015 partner ACTED, provide assistance to conflict affected children in Hawiga district with support of the European Commission through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

For more information, please contact:

Lorena Martin, Education in Emergencies Program Manager, People in Need

+964 0772 9789 835,

Aline Milev, Country Director, ACTED Iraq,


People in Need (PIN) was established in 1992 by a group of Czech war correspondents who were no longer satisfied with relaying information about ongoing conflicts and began sending out aid. Throughout the 25 years of its existence, it has established itself as a professional humanitarian organization striving to provide aid in troubled regions. PIN has been present in Iraq since 2003 providing humanitarian, early recovery, and development assistance to conflict affected people.

ACTED is a French independent, private and non-profit organisation established in 1993, committed to immediate humanitarian relief to support those in urgent need and protect people’s dignity, while co-creating longer term opportunities for sustainable growth and fulfilling people’s potential. ACTED endeavors to respond to humanitarian crises and build resilience; promote inclusive and sustainable growth; co-construct effective governance and support the building of civil society worldwide by investing in people and their potential. ACTED has worked in Iraq since 2003 and in the KRI since 2007 providing humanitarian support to vulnerable populations through a multi-sectoral response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the Iraqi mass displacement challenges.

EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO)

The European Union and its Member States are the world's leading donor of humanitarian aid. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity with people in need all around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises. The European Commission ensures rapid and effective delivery of EU relief assistance through its two main instruments: civil protection and humanitarian aid. Through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian aid Operations department (ECHO), the European Commission helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the department provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs. For more information, please visit the European Commission's website.

Author: People in Need & ACTED