5 Things to Know About Iraq's Unfolding Child Crisis

June 18, 2014


Michael Sandler

As armed groups sweep through northern Iraq and clash with government forces, an estimated 250,000 children have been displaced.

1. 250,000 children have been driven from their homes since June 5.

The conflict across central and northern Iraq has caused an estimated 500,000 Iraqis, including 250,000 children, to flee from Mosul and surrounding areas. 

On 29 June 2014 in Iraq, children play in the dirt, outside a tent in the Khazar transit camp in the northern-eastern city of Erbil, capital of Kurdistan Region.

2. Children are scattering across the region.

Families seeking safety are traveling from town to town, moving in with friends and relatives and pouring into displacement camps. Humanitarian workers are struggling to keep up with the influx at sites such as the Khazir camp, shown above and below.

On 29 June 2014 in Iraq, 9-year-old Rasha Saleh, whose family has been displaced from the Kokjeli area in the conflict-affected city of Mosul, stands by a pole at the entrance to a tent in the Khazar transit camp in the northern-eastern city of Erbil.

3. Iraq has already absorbed some 200,000 Syrian refugees.

The influx from the three-year-old conflict in neighboring Syria puts an additional burden on Iraq's hospitals and public services. A school at the Domiz camp for Syrian refugees in northern Iraq is shown below.

Children at a school in the Domiz refugee camp in northern Iraq.

4. Polio, eradicated in Iraq 14 years ago, has recently reappeared.

Officials confirmed in March that polio has spread from Syria to Iraq. Emergency polio immunization campaigns in many cities have been disrupted by the recent violence. UNICEF and the World Health Organization have been working to vaccinate 20 million children in response to the regional outbreak.

A displaced woman fills containers at a water point in the Khazar transit camp in the northern-eastern city of Erbil.

5. Waterborne disease is an urgent risk to children.

Without clean water and adequate sanitation, the outbreak of disease is certain. UNICEF is trucking in 400,000 liters of water every day to displaced families and has installed latrines at the Khazir camp, shown above.

Hygiene kits are among the 33 metric tons of emergency supplies that have already arrived in UNICEF humanitarian airlifts to Erbil, shown below. 

UNICEF Senior Supply/Logistics Assistant Kasim Muhamad supervises the loading of UNICEF emergency supplies onto an aeroplane at the airport in the northern-eastern city of Erbil in Kurdistan Region.


Learn more