GENEVA/NEW YORK/AMMAN, 23 May 2007 - Conditions for Iraqi children affected by violence and displacement have reached a critical point, UNICEF said today. The children's organization requires $42 million to provide relief over the next six months for children inside Iraq, as well as those who fled with their families to neighbouring Jordan and Syria. (View full report)
"Humanitarian aid offers a lifeline to Iraq's children and stepping up support now is the best way to protect and invest in Iraq's future," said Daniel Toole, Acting Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Chief of Emergency Operations. "Plans are in place to reach Iraq's most vulnerable children with basic health, water, sanitation and education support - particularly displaced children living in host communities, as well as children living in Iraq's most violent districts."
UNICEF will also help the Jordanian and Syrian governments in providing quality social services for the growing population of Iraqi children. Initial priorities in these countries include ensuring that Iraqi children have full access to the classroom, health care and protection from exploitation.
Since 2003, nearly 15 per cent of Iraq's population have fled their homes - four million people, half of them children. Many are seeking refuge in communities that are already poor or hit by violence, pressuring already weakened social services. Those seeking refuge outside Iraq face an uncertain future. Complications over residency status may deter many from seeking health care or enrolling children in school. Among those fleeing are thousands of doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers - key service providers for children. Added to the deaths of so many fathers in the violence, this exodus is robbing Iraq's children of essential pillars of support.
"Iraq's drain of care-givers is creating major gaps in children's daily lives, an issue often overlooked amid the violence," said Roger Wright, UNICEF Special Representative for Iraq. "We need to fill these gaps to address the most debilitating effects of the insecurity. Conditions for too many Iraqi children are deteriorating," he added.
Last week Iraq reported its first suspected cholera cases of the year (all of them children), increasing fears of a serious outbreak over the summer months. The deterioration of Iraq's water and sanitation systems means only an estimated 30 per cent of children have access to safe water. Health services are becoming increasingly hard to access. And with many schools hit hard by insecurity and overcrowding, too few children are completing this school year with a quality education.
Toole said that Iraq is simply not secure enough to deliver a full range of assistance in many areas. But he stressed it is still possible to help a large number of children in need. A recent UNICEF and WHO-supported national Measles, Mumps and Rubella immunization campaign has just reached 3.6 million children (90 per cent of its goal) in a house-to-house campaign, partly funded by the European Commission. Such generous international support to Iraq must continue, especially for children, until the Government of Iraq can provide for its own, he added.
"Our experience operating daily inside Iraq confirms to us that aid does indeed reach children and makes a tremendous impact, even in extremely insecure areas." Toole said.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
UNICEF emergency response for Iraqi children will include:
Inside Iraq UNICEF will continue to augment water and sanitation services, including water tankering operations to some 120,000 people daily in and around Baghdad, support ongoing immunization campaigns, provide basic health and obstetric kits, stockpile oral rehydration salts for children with diarrhoea and deliver essential medical supplies Facilities in overcrowded schools will be improved, teachers and students provided with education kits and children trapped at home by insecurity given learning opportunities to catch up on their lessons. UNICEF will also be able to reunite separated children with relatives and offer psychosocial care.
In Jordan UNICEF will help the Jordanian Government to enrol and keep Iraqi children in school, to continue to provide them with health care and boost child protection services.
In Syria UNICEF will help the Syrian Government to provide immunization and other health services for all Iraqi children, create safe spaces for young Iraqis and provide special protection services for vulnerable Iraqi girls and women.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information please contact:
Claire Hajaj, UNICEF Iraq, +962 7969 26190, firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF Media New York, 917 582 7546, email@example.com
Rafael Hermoso, UNICEF Media New York, 212 326 7516, firstname.lastname@example.org
Veronique Taveau, UNICEF Media Geneva, Tel: +41 22 909 5716 ; Mobile: +41 79 216 94 01, email@example.com