Iraq + 1 more

Violence scarring Iraqi children; education best immediate answer for refugee kids, says new report

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Jordan, 14 June 2007 - The dark underside of the world's fastest growing refugee crisis is the indelible scarring of millions of Iraqi children, alarming numbers of whom have witnessed gruesome violence and have had close family members murdered, a new report from World Vision finds.

The report, Trapped! The Disappearing Hopes of Iraqi Refugee Children, found 43 per cent of children surveyed in Amman, Jordan witnessed violence in Iraq, and 39 per cent said they lost someone close through violence.

Tragically, both children in Iraq and refugee children in neighbouring countries do not receive basic medical care, not to mention specialized support to deal with trauma.

But the structured classroom environment is a powerful place for helping children work out stress and trauma, a major point of the report that calls for immediate access to education for all of the 200,000 Iraqi refugee children in Jordan.

"These children have been kidnapped and held for ransom, witnessed brutal home invasions, suicide bombings and murders. Now refugee life offers them little option but to go to work as child labourers, exposing them to the threat of deportation," said Ashley Clements, author of the report.

Understandably, 25 per cent of the Iraqi refugee children World Vision surveyed did not feel safe in their Jordanian homes. This is a combination of past experiences, lack of refugee status, which leaves the entire family unsure, and the absence of healthy routines like going to school, the report says.

World Vision was told only 14,000 to 20,000 of Iraqi children in Jordan attend schools. Most families fled with little or nothing and while they were solid middle class at home, in Jordan they don't have enough to feed themselves let alone pay private school fees. With no official refugee status, their children have no right to attend Jordanian schools.

Schools and other infrastructure in Jordan are already overburdened. Declaring the nearly 2 million Iraqis in Jordan as official refugees would require provision of services the government cannot possibly manage.

"Two months ago the UNHCR Geneva conference called on the international community to address the crisis of the 2 million Iraqi refugees. The response of the nations has been a deafening silence," said Clements.

"An entire generation of Iraqi children is now trapped in one debilitating limbo or another, either refugee life outside Iraq without the official status to ensure critical services or caught in the crossfire of carnage inside their country," he said.

"These children, hundreds of thousands of them, require immediate access to education and adequate healthcare. We need to start rebuilding their ability to hope, to find reasons to work for their own futures," he concluded.

The report, Trapped! The Disappearing Hopes of Iraqi Refugee Children, builds upon the findings of an earlier report released by World Vision in April 2007.

UNHCR says the combined number of internally and externally displaced Iraqi children is 2 million.