UNICEF scales up efforts to assist vulnerable Iraqi children

17 June 2008

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today it is scaling up its emergency operation in Iraq to address the basic needs of more than 360,000 vulnerable children inside the strife-torn nation.

After five years of conflict, more than 800,000 Iraqi children are unable to go to school and only 40 per cent can access safe water, according to the agency.

Through its Immediate Action for Vulnerable Children and Family – or IMPACT programme – UNICEF is aiming to assist over 360,000 children this year and ensure they have access to health care and are protected against malnutrition. The programme also seeks to provide safe water, emergency education and specialized care for abused and vulnerable children and women.

“In response to the emergency situation, UNICEF has reflected and worked with partners to better address the needs as we assess them and also be increasingly on the ground with partners. This is where IMPACT Iraq comes from,” said Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“It is an adaptation to the security situation on the ground… to allow us to have better access through a number of NGO [non-governmental organization] partners, as well as communities on the ground to address the needs of education, health water and sanitation as well as protection,” she stated.

In April the UN envoy tasked with protecting the rights of children caught up in armed conflict said that Iraq’s children are “silent victims” of the continued violence.

“Many of them are no longer go to school, many are recruited for violent activities or detained in custody, they lack access to the most basic services and manifest a wide range of psychological symptoms from the violence in their everyday lives,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said following a visit to the country.

She called on all parties to give unhindered access to aid workers, and urged that agencies such as UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), be allowed to reach children in all parts of Iraq.

 

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