After the Violence, Iraq's Displaced Children Face a New Threat: Winter
Since January 2014, Iraq has suffered from intense conflict and sectarian violence. More than 6.5 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 3 million children, in 2019.
Although armed violence has declined, 1.85 million people, including 825,000 children, remain displaced, exposed to a new deadly threat: winter.
"One-third of all 825,000 displaced children live in camps, in poorly insulated tents, often with no winter clothes or shoes," says Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. "These children have little protection against flooding and the bitter cold, putting them at risk of illness, hypothermia and death.”
Winters in Iraq are harsh. It rains and snows, with temperatures often falling below zero in the north, where most of the displaced children live in dilapidated housing or camps. Unable to afford fuel for heating and winter clothing to keep their children warm, families are powerless to protect their children.
“It’s very difficult," says one father who fled Syria with his family and now lives in Arbid camp in Sulaymaniyah. "Your child feels cold and you do not have the money to buy clothes."
To help parents keep their children safe this winter, UNICEF is on the ground providing warm winter gear to more than 160,000 displaced and refugee childrnn.
“We all need to do the best we can to make sure that vulnerable families do not spend another winter out in the cold in camps or in temporary shelters,” said Henriette Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
Though winter is hard, every season poses great risks to children. After decades of violence and neglect, Iraq's public services remain overstretched, with damaged water and sanitation networks and an overburdened health system putting children at risk of disease outbreaks.
Displaced Iraqi children risk separation from their parents, injury from improvised explosive devices, and exploitation and child trafficking.
In Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, entire swaths of the city have been reduced to rubble. Many schools have been damaged or destroyed. In some areas, over 90 percent of school-aged children lack access to education. There is much work to be done.
Across Iraq, UNICEF is providing essential services for affected children and families. Rapid delivery of food and water, temporary schools, child protection and psychosocial services and critical health care will help millions of people in Iraq in 2019.