Concerned at abuse of orphans in Iraq, UNICEF urges measures in response
Reacting to broadcast images of children in a Baghdad orphanage suffering “horrific neglect and abuse,” the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today urged the Iraqi Government to assess conditions nationwide and take measures to address the problem.
“Even in a country overshadowed by daily scenes of violence, these images are truly shocking,” said UNICEF Representative for Iraq, Roger Wright. “Making children suffer in this way is totally unacceptable.”
The agency said all Iraqi children are at risk in the current conflict, but orphans – and those with special needs – are particularly vulnerable, while the plight of institutionalized children is exacerbated by the decline in qualified childcare workers.
In a statement, UNICEF welcomed Prime Minister Nuri El Maliki’s call for a national enquiry into the conditions of children in orphanages, and urged the Iraqi Government “to enable a rapid assessment of all the country’s orphanages and juvenile centres as soon as possible.”
UNICEF called for an open monitoring system for the management of children’s institutions and measures to improve the skills of caregivers and accelerating community-based childcare alternatives.
At the same time, the agency paid tribute to the “tremendous determination of the majority of the Iraqi people to extend helping hands and to protect children” and urged that these efforts continue.
“Caring for children is our primary responsibility as human beings, no matter what the circumstances,” said Mr. Wright. “I hope these terrible images from the Baghdad orphanage will spur us all on to do even more for Iraq’s children.”