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Trapped! The disappearing hopes of Iraqi refugee children

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As World Vision previously reported in "Trapped! Unlocking the Future of Iraqi Refugee Children", hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children are hiding in fear throughout the Middle East. They are trapped in small, ghetto apartments in cities like Amman and Damascus, hiding from the police, in fear of deportation, and thus hiding from the view of the world.

Estimates put the number of refugees at more than two million today (i) half of whom are children. The numbers are growing daily with up to 50,000, at times (ii), fl eeing across Iraq's borders each month.

The international community has taken steps in recent months to address what has been described as the world's fastest-growing displacement crisis (iii). But funding and support still fall well short of what is needed to adequately serve this overwhelming and desperate population living in exile.

Denied legal status and forbidden to work, Iraqi refugees are selling their assets to buy food and pay rent. "The Iraqi refugees are rapidly plunging deeper into poverty and despair," says the Offi ce of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"The pressures are building inexorably across the board."(iv)

Jordan, with a population of fewer than six million people, cannot care for the estimated 750,000 Iraqi refugees living within its borders without dramatically increased international support. Its infrastructure and services are straining under the immense pressure of this massive infl ux of people.

With Jordanian schools already overcrowded, most of the 200,000 (v) Iraqi refugee children of school age living there are being denied an education. Many of these children have seen and lived through the horrors of wars, sanctions, and sectarian violence, and bear heavy psychological scars. Some are beginning to turn to illegal work, both to avoid the tedium of being trapped in cramped apartments and to provide needed fi nancial support for their families, albeit meagre.

Combined with the millions of Palestinians displaced across the region, the Middle East has turned into the largest refugee-hosting region in the world. Without immediate, substantial, and long-lasting support from the international community, this refugee crisis threatens to compound the region's already substantial problems. The economies of the Middle East, its societies, religions and regional security are in jeopardy if this crisis remains unaddressed.

The aim of this report is to provide more detail, understanding and stories of the disappearing hopes - for an education, good health and protection - of Iraqi refugee children.

This report strengthens our call, and resolve, to enable Iraqi refugee children to fulfi l their potential and hopes. Hopes that all children long for and which families and communities strive for; hopes, World Vision believes, bring fullness of life.

Notes

(i) UNHCR, Number of Iraqi Displaced Tops 4.2 million; Shanty Towns Mushroom, June 5, 2007

(ii) New York Times, European Union Split on Solution to African and Iraqi Refugee Infl ux ,June 13, 2007

(iii) UNHCR, "Iraq Bleeds; Millions Displaced by Confl ict, Persecution and Violence," Refugees, 146 (2), 2007, p.2

(iv) UNHCR, "Iraq Bleeds; Millions Displaced by Confl ict, Persecution and Violence," Refugees, 146 (2), 2007, p.2

(v) New York Times, The Flight from Iraq, May 13, 2007