Twenty five years of sanctions and conflict has made Iraq a
difficult and dangerous place to be a child. Widespread insecurity
since the 2003 war has eroded social services, drained the country of
skilled doctors and teachers and fractured once peaceful communities.
Tens of thousands of children have lost parents, brothers and sisters
to violence. A rising number are unable to go to school, only half can
receive routine vaccinations at their health centres and only 40 per
cent can reliably access safe drinking water. Over four million Iraqis
have fled their homes to reach safety in other parts of the country or
abroad – half of them under 18.
Priority issues for Iraqi children
- Education rates are falling. The number of primary-age children not
enrolled in school has climbed from under 800,000 to over 2 million
since 2005 (Iraq MoE). School closures have been reported in Baghdad,
and many schools have been caught up in violent attacks.
- Children are regularly orphaned by violence, and the number of
female-headed households is rising as more families lose their primary
wage-earner in the conflict.
- Stresses on children witnessing violence or living in fear of
violence are increasing their risk of psycho-social problems, abuse and
exploitation. Street children and substance abuse are increasingly
visible phenomena in Iraq’s central cities.
- Health services such as routine immunization are in decline in many
areas. Routine immunization rates in some districts in Iraq are under
- One in five Iraqi children shows signs of stunted growth,
indicating long term nutritional problems. Diarrhoea rates are also
high because of safe water shortages.
- Pregnant women are have limited access to ante-natal services and potentially life-saving emergency obstetric care.
- 1.5 million Iraqi people were displaced inside Iraq between 2006
and early 2008. Displacement has unbalanced social services and left
many communities struggling to cope with the influx of new people.
UNICEF in Action in Iraq
- UNICEF has brought safe water, medical supplies and hygiene support
to over 550,000 Iraqi children and women, including the displaced and
victims of mass-casualty violence.
- More than 4.4 million children under five were immunized multiple
times against polio and 3.3 million against measles during UNICEF and
WHO-supported immunization campaigns.
- Over 1,000 schools have been rebuilt since 2003 and basic school materials provided for 4.7 million school children.
- An Accelerated Learning Programme has given over 30,000 children
outside the education system the opportunity to pass their primary
- UNICEF is tankering safe drinking water to deprived households,
schools, IDP areas and hospitals – delivering nearly 2 billion litres
- Over 300 street children have been re-integrated with their
families and communities in a Baghdad-based Child-Re-integration
Project. Many more are receiving critical psychosocial care.
- The Government of Iraq has launched a programme to fortify wheat
flour with iron and folic acid, essential to combat anaemia amongst