The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today painted a bleak picture of the situation of children in Iraq, where an estimated 2 million boys and girls continue suffer from poor nutrition, disease and interrupted education.
Conditions continue to deteriorate, with many mothers preventing their children from attending school for fear they would be attacked.
“Iraqi children are paying far too high a price,” said Roger Wright, UNICEF’s Special Representative for Iraq. “While we have been providing as much assistance as possible, a new window of opportunity is opening, which should enable us to reach the most vulnerable with expanded, consistent support.”
In 2007 UNICEF invested over $40 million dollars to deliver critical health care, safe water and sanitation, education and other essential services to millions of children and their families.
Thanks to the funds, over 4 million children were immunized against polio and more than three million against measles, mumps and rubella. As a result, Iraq remains polio-free and measles cases have decreased from 9,181 in 2004 to just 156 as of November.
In addition, some 4.7 million Iraqi primary school children benefited from UNICEF support, including the distribution of school materials, rebuilding and restoring schools, adding extra classrooms for displaced children and providing accelerated learning opportunities.
UNICEF noted that children’s needs inside Iraq will become clearer as security improves. To help meet the needs of returning families, the agency and its partners a new initiative known as IMPACT: Iraq, which involves a national network of UN teams and non-governmental partners able to quickly assess and respond to needs as they arise.
Mr. Wright stressed that sufficient funding will be crucial to meeting the needs of Iraq’s children in 2008, adding that children should be the priority for international investment in Iraq.
“Iraqi children are the foundation for their country’s recovery,” he stated. “Where children’s lives are protected and revived, community recovery will swiftly follow. We continue to owe them our very best in 2008 and beyond.”