Call to protect children as escalating conflict threatens to destroy childhoods in Iraq
BAGHDAD, AMMAN and TORONTO, June 30, 2016 /CNW/ - 3.6 million children in Iraq – one in five in the country – are at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups, according to a new UNICEF report.
A Heavy Price for Children reveals that the number of children in danger of these violations has increased by 1.3 million in 18 months.
The findings show that 4.7 million children need humanitarian aid – a third of all Iraqi children – while many families now face deteriorating conditions following military operations in Fallujah and around Mosul.
"The conflict in Iraq is not only devastating the lives of children, but it also risks destroying their futures," says David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. "If these children aren't protected from violence and provided with the support and chance to learn and grow that is their right, the peace, security and future prosperity of the country is at risk."
50 Iraqi children abducted every month
UNICEF's report documents the scale and complexity of the humanitarian crisis in a country reeling from nearly four decades of conflict, insecurity and neglect, and where the impact on children worsens every day.
Staggeringly, a total of 1,496 children have been abducted in the country over the past two and a half years. That translates to 50 children abducted each month, with many forced into fighting or sexually abused.
"The kidnapping of Iraqi children is unacceptable. Targeting children with violence of any kind is unacceptable," says Morley. "We are failing them as an international community if we don't provide these – and all – children with a safe space to grow up, to learn, to be nurtured."
The report also shows that almost 10 per cent of Iraqi children – more than 1.5 million – have been forced to flee their homes because of violence since the beginning of 2014, often multiple times. Nearly one in five schools is out of use due to conflict and almost 3.5 million children of school-age are missing out on an education.
Children are targets of attacks
"Children in Iraq are in the firing line and are being repeatedly and relentlessly targeted," said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Iraq Representative. "We appeal to all parties for restraint and to respect and protect children. We must help give children the support they need to recover from the horrors of war and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq."
Canada has committed significant humanitarian funds in response to the crisis in Iraq, including more than $16 million to the No Lost Generation Initiative, supported by UNICEF, towards crucial education and child protection programs. Canada will also co-host the upcoming Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq in Washington, D.C., on July 20, 2016.
UNICEF is calling for urgent action to protect children's rights in Iraq. There are five concrete steps that need to be taken immediately:
- End the killing, maiming, abduction, torture, detention, sexual violence and recruitment of children. Stop attacks on schools, medical facilities and personnel.
- Provide unhindered and unconditional humanitarian access to all children wherever they are in the country, including areas not under control of the government. In areas with ongoing conflict, civilians wishing to leave must be given safe passage and receive the services they need.
- Expand and improve education for out of school children through catch up classes. Increase access to learning and equip teachers and children with educational materials and training. These are the children who will rebuild Iraq and contribute to a more peaceful and stable future.
- Provide psychological and recreation programs to help children heal and to reconnect with their childhoods.
- Increase funding, as resources are running short, already leading to cut backs in life-saving support for children. UNICEF is seeking US$100 million for its response in Iraq for 2016.
Broadcast quality video and photos available here: http://uni.cf/291HUId
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.
SOURCE UNICEF Canada
Image with caption: "A young boy stands next to a fence surrounding the football field at Al-Shuhadaa Stadium in the city of Iskandariya, Iraq. On March 25, 2016, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt as a crowd gathered after a football game at the stadium. According to media reports, 43 people died and more than 100 were injured in the bombing. Of those who died, 29 were boys younger than 17 years old. (c) UNICEF/UNI204067/Khuzaie (CNW Group/UNICEF Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160630_C1046_PHOTO_EN_725442.jpg
For further information: To arrange interviews or for more information please contact: Stefanie Carmichael, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8866; 647-500-4320 (mobile), firstname.lastname@example.org