About Unicef Iraqi Children's Fund

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 50%.
  • 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 school exams.
  • UNICEF is tankering safe drinking water to deprived households, schools, IDP areas and hospitals – delivering nearly 2 billion litres since 2003;
  • 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 pregnant women.