Children are trapped in an endless cycle of violence and poverty as a result of Iraq’s increase in violence over the past three years, according to a UNICEF report released on June 22.
Of the 20 million children in Iraq, UNICEF estimates that at least 5 million children are in need of humanitarian aid.
In the June report, titled “Nowhere to Go”, UNICEF also stated that nearly half of Iraq’s 3 million internally displaced persons are children.
“Across Iraq, children continue to witness sheer horror and unimaginable violence. They have been killed, injured, abducted and forced to shoot and kill in one of the most brutal wars in recent history,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Iraq Peter Hawkins in a press release.
The upsurge in violence in and around Iraq’s northern city of Mosul due to the ongoing struggle for power between the Islamic State and Iraq has created devastating realities for children. Of the 790,000 that have been displaced due to the fighting, almost 435,000 of them are children, according to UNICEF.
An eight-month-long battle saw signs of closure at the end of June, when Iraq’s offensive against IS in Mosul witnessed Iraqi troops seize what was left of the city’s Grand Mosque of Al-Nuri, which is where IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi had proclaimed his caliphate three years prior. However, despite Iraq’s gains in the battle against IS, it seems unlikely violence will come to a definite hault.
“Violence in Mosul, Fallujah and Ramadi has been fierce with use of heavy weapons and bombings in densely populated areas,” reads the UNICEF report. “Children have been killed and maimed, some shot by snipers as they attempted to escape the violence. Many children have been used as human shields while others have been forced to join the fighting.”
War has affected all functions of life in Iraq, including the education system and health services. Years of violence and battles across the country has left half of its schools in need of repairs, while three million children do not attend school on a daily basis, often due to pressures at home or fears of violence. In conflict-ridden areas, a staggering 90% of children do not attend school.
“Violence has generated patterns of displacement and destruction, and pushed more than 1 million children out of school, leaving them with fewer skills and at a higher risk of sinking into poverty,” according to the UNICEF report. “The latest figures show that one in four children in Iraq now live in a poor household.”
Violence in Iraq has resulted in 138 attacks on schools, 58 attacks on hospitals and UNICEF estimates that 1,075 children have died as a result of conflict between January 2014 and May 2017.
The daunting statistics paint a grim picture of what life must be like on the ground for children and their families. It is only a snapshot of a country that has been embroiled in conflict for well over a decade. Despite limited resources, UNICEF, with support from its partners, claims to have assisted over 256,000 Iraqi children obtain formal education, provided 198,000 children with psychological support and has helped gain access to safe water for over 1 million people, half of which are children.
The only way to stop the onslaught of violence against children and all Iraqis, according to UNICEF, is to put an immediate end to the conflict, although that seems unlikely. “All warring parties owe it to the children of Iraq to put an end to the violence."
Photo credit: Iraqi children in Mosul/Wikipedia.