Global Policy Forum

Plight of Iraqi Children Raises Concern


By Suleiman Khalidi

May 21, 2007

Violence in Iraq is harming the prospects of a generation of children exposed to daily carnage, the head of the U.N's children's fund said on Monday. Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, said there was growing concern about the long-term effects on Iraqi children who comprise 50 percent of the country's 27 million population. "It is the children who suffer. It is the children who are the future," Veneman said. "If they continue exposure to this kind of violence, will they be the kind of productive adults that they will need to be to really participate ... in a peaceful Iraq one day?"

UNICEF's latest updates to donors said the surge in violence and population movements had put the most vulnerable 4.8 million Iraqi children under the age of five at increased risk. "Having to witness the kind of atrocities of conflict, it's very hard on children and it really deprives them of the active childhood they should have," Veneman added.

Although reliable statistics are still difficult to get on the plight of Iraqi children, preliminary UNICEF data show a fifth of Iraq's children are chronically malnourished. Other U.N. data suggest that up to 1 to 10 children are acutely malnourished, UNICEF officials say.

UNICEF, the largest aid body running operations affecting children across Iraq, would be launching soon a $42 million appeal to help cope with the rising needs, Veneman said. Although most of the money would be spent in Iraq, some funds would be channelled to refugees in Syria and Jordan.

The children's aid agency was also looking for new programmes to support displaced children and those orphaned by violence and families that have lost their prime care giver. "My concern is that the children are able to survive first and thrive. Can they maintain their ability to get an education? Are they getting health care? Are they being protected from violence? Those are the big concerns," Veneman said.

More Information on Iraq
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