Iraqi children… multiple problems due to poverty and deprivation

Children from the poorest and displaced families are more at risk of abuse (Ihsan Muhammad Ahmed/Al-Anad

The control of the “ISIS” organization over the cities of northern and western Iraq in mid-2014, and the fierce battles that followed, waves of displacement and the Corona pandemic, which left clear negative consequences within Iraqi society, and then the crisis of drought and climate change, deepened problems that Iraqi children face in everyday life and in different aspects for their development.
The spokesperson of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Iraq, Miguel Mateus Munoz, explains that “UNICEF helped 4.2 million Iraqi children and students complete their education electronically during the Corona pandemic period and implemented successful plans to face the challenges of climate change and water shortages in the country, allowing 1.5 million people to have access to safe and healthy drinking water, and providing sanitation services to a million more.

Students and young people

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It notes that “2.5 million people, including 1.1 million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance in Iraq. The Corona pandemic, its economic consequences and water shortages have affected agriculture and local water supplies, leading to health risks, severe poverty and inevitable migration. The situation worsened during the year.” Present”.
It reveals that 4.7 million Iraqi children have been affected by ISIS’ control of several cities, causing them major problems related to displacement, lack of vaccinations, loss of family and exposure to physical harm, and forcing 3.5 million of them to drop out of school. UNICEF documented 1,496 cases of child abduction in ISIS-controlled cities in 2014 and 2015, and their exposure to heinous forms of abuse and exploitation, “According to our statistics, 1.5 million children were forced to leave their original homes with their families .”
On the issue of ISIS recruiting children and using them to carry weapons in the conflict, Munoz confirms that UNICEF’s global report entitled 25 Years of Armed Conflict, which was published last June, ranks Iraq among the top eight countries in the world in terms of the number of children detained .due to armed conflicts.
It is believed that children from the poorest families and exiles are the most vulnerable to severe abuse. The UNICEF report shows, by gender, that “confirmed cases of severe abuse hit children hard, and one child was exposed to multiple abuses at the same time.” It also shows that unexploded ordnance is among the main causes of killing or maiming children, as the use of children to carry IEDs has become a trend of serious concern.
In the past five years, 519 Iraqi children have been killed or maimed, according to UNICEF, from mines and abandoned ammunition, and more than 80 percent of the injured children are male.
The year 2021 recorded the highest rate in which 52 children were killed, and 73 of them were left disabled as a result of unexploded residual war.
Munoz confirms that “since the beginning of 2021, more than 2,000 Iraqi children who returned from the al-Hol camp in Syria have gone through programs for their intellectual protection and access to education and water, sanitation and hygiene services.”


Children's education among major challenges in Iraq (Ahmed Al-Rubaye / France Press)

Children’s education among major challenges in Iraq (Ahmed Al-Rubaye / France Press)

As for the effects of the Corona pandemic, it has pushed 4.5 million Iraqis, who make up 11.7 percent of the population, below the poverty line and caused huge losses in businesses and jobs. As for high prices, the national poverty rate has risen from 20 percent in 2018 to 31.7 percent in 2021.
In addition to the percentage of those who fell below the poverty line, which was 15.8 percent, children were the most affected by the crisis. In the past, one out of five children suffered from poverty, but now that number has doubled to two out of five children, or 37.9 percent, and about half of the children in the country face multiple forms of deprivation, whether in education, health, living conditions or financial security. .


Health risks of lack of water for children (Haid Indar/AFP)

Health risks of lack of water for children (Haid Indar/AFP)

Munoz continues: “One in five children in Iraq suffers from stunting, and chronic malnutrition is a major challenge with long-term effects, as it reduces the chances of survival for some children, hinders their growth and causes their health to deteriorate, and has potential consequences.” Infant and young child feeding practices in Iraq are poor and fall short of the required level, and breastfeeding practices after birth are very low and do not exceed 19.6 percent, with most infants receiving supplemental milk and other fluids after birth for a short time Breastfeeding does not last long, because according to UNICEF statistics, only 22.7 percent of mothers breastfed until the child was 24 months old.
Regarding child labor in Iraq, Munoz says, “A third of Iraq’s children go through difficult economic conditions that put them under the demands of work to support their families. They face the highest increase in poverty rates, with two out of every 5 poor children , and the Corona pandemic is among the reasons for worsening the problem of poverty.” .
Regarding the effects of climate change, a UN spokesperson believes that it “presents another challenge for the children of Iraq, as it is among the countries currently witnessing the highest rates of exposure of children to high temperatures and the most disturbing weather forecasts for 2050 confirm that this country to be among the hardest hit in the world.” According to the UNICEF report on protecting children from the worsening effects of heat waves, 9 out of 10 children are exposed to extreme heat that clearly endangers their lives and health.

Iraqi child, Zakaria Shamel, who has AIDS (The New Arab)


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Heat waves hit children especially hard, because they are less able to control their body temperature compared to adults. The more children are exposed to heat waves, the more likely they are to develop chronic respiratory diseases, asthma and heart disease.
Munoz believes that “the level of water scarcity in Iraq is alarming. According to our latest report, which was published last year, about 3 out of 5 children do not have access to safe water services, and less than half of schools do not have access to basic water supply services, which threatens children’s health .” risk, and threatens their nutrition, cognitive development and future livelihoods.”

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