UNICEF recently released a report on Iraq. It not only focused upon the country’s children, but health, education, poverty, and the displaced. The organization said that with the reduction in violence there was greater access to Iraq’s communities. That was revealing more examples of poverty and deprivation than anyone knew about previously.
The biggest issue UNICEF reported on was a developing measles threat. It said that nine provinces had reported measles affecting 6,000 people since early 2008. The Iraqi Ministry of Health is worried that it could spread. Najaf, Sulamaniya, Irbil, Maysan, and Dohuk were endangered by this disease, while a more recent report from the United Nations’ IRIN news agency said that Salahaddin, Tamim, Anbar, Diyala, Baghdad, Babil and Dhi Qar were hit the hardest. Most victims were small children under the age of six. Government officials said that the main cause of the spread of measles was the lack of security, which kept health workers out of many areas.
The United Nations agency also went to a few schools in the northern provinces of Diyala, Irbil, and Dohuk. All of them were lacking basic services, especially access to clean water. In Dohuk the schools lacked bathrooms, while children in two villages in Irbil were suffering from water born diseases.
The displaced was another issue the report dealt with. In Tamim, 900 children were found begging on the streets of Kirkuk. 100 of them were orphans. Around half were internal refugees. All of them were trying to support their impoverished families. Internal refugees that were returning to the province lacked shelter, and access to water and sanitation. In Basra 250 squatters in an old navy had no sanitation, health care, or clean water. On the positive side 1,325 displaced families returned to the city of Mosul in Ninewa.
In 2008 Iraq suffered a sever drought. The worst hit areas were in the north. UNICEF traveled to Irbil and Ninewa and saw the drought’s lingering effects. In two areas of Irbil there was high poverty exacerbated by the lack of water that destroyed their farms, which were also their main source of food.
Examples of impoverishment were also found in Anbar. The outskirts of the province had deep poverty. Two areas by Ramadi that suffered because of the violence are now improving because the government has started programs for children. They still lack adequate health, sanitation and other basic services however.
The last part of the report detailed the various projects UNICEF was working on in Iraq. So far, the organization has committed $8 million for humanitarian projects in 59 communities. Those have mainly focused upon water, schools, and health campaigns. The major problem is that United Nations can hardly meet its obligations. UNICEF is short 89% of the money it needs for its various programs.
UNICEF is hoping that the provincial elections will lead to more responsible local governments that will address the needs of the country’s children. They are afraid about the spread of measles. The lack of services is also a large problem across the country. Iraq’s infrastructure has not been kept up because of the violence. Even as that has declined, there is still large-scale neglect. Finally poverty is another major issue. It has led to children begging, and kept them from going to school. More and more of these cases are being discovered as attacks have declined. The lack of money for both the United Nations and the Iraqi government after the fall in oil prices will probably mean these issues will not be solved any time soon however.
IRIN, “IRAQ: Measles emerges in violence-hit regions,” 2/24/09
UNICEF, “UNICEF Humanitarian Action Update Iraq,” 2/17/09
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