The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq is torturing children to confess to involvement with the Islamic State (ISIS), according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Children told Human Rights Watch that in 2017 and 2018, security officers, known as Asayish, used beatings, stress positions, and electric shock on boys in their custody. Most said they had no access to a lawyer and they were not allowed to read the confessions Asayish wrote and forced them to sign.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

As Nadia Murad (pictured), the Yazidi activist and survivor of gender-based violence is honored with the Nobel Prize for Peace, UNICEF is calling attention to the plight of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced children in Iraq whose lives are threatened by freezing temperatures and floods that have affected large parts of the country.

“As the world celebrates Nadia Murad’s incredible story of survival and her work for human rights, let us remember that there are many vulnerable children in Iraq who still need our support, even if the worse of the violence may be over” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Iraq.

Winters in Iraq are harsh. It rains and snows and temperatures can fall below zero in the northern part of the country, where a majority of Yazidi and other displaced children live. Most displaced families live below the poverty line, in dilapidated housing with poor heating, or in camps with little protection from the cold. It impossible to afford fuel for heating and winter clothing to keep their children warm.

“The devastating floods have made this winter even more difficult for displaced children who are extremely vulnerable to hypothermia and respiratory diseases. No child should be subjected to such risks. Every child deserves to be warm and healthy,” added Mr. Hawkins.

UNICEF is providing winter clothes, including boots, scarves, and hats to approximately 161,000 children in Sinjar, Erbil, Dohuk, Ninawa, Anbar, Diwaniya, Basra, Salaheddin, Baghdad and Suleimaniah, including through cash support.

UNICEF’s winter campaign aims to reach the most vulnerable children aged between three months and 14 years living in camps for the internally displaced and in hard-to-reach areas.

(Source: UN)

It’s here! #Giving Tuesday! 

Make a high impact gift to Iraqi orphans and vulnerable children today.

How? $40,000 is available in matching funds for education, nutrition, legal protection, medical care, and psychosocial support for orphans, street kids, and displaced children.

Donate $25, $50, $100, or more and get a 100% match PLUS, for every $25 donated, a girl or boy gets a gift of a doll or soccer ball.

Watch this video:  Their smiles belong to you!

(Source: Iraqi Children Foundation)

Deep inequality continues to shape the lives of children in Iraq

A comprehensive survey on children’s wellbeing in Iraq released today found that conflict and inequality remain defining features of childhood. A majority of poor children are not receiving any form of government assistance. Even as the fighting has subsided, 80 per cent of all children experience violence at home or in school.

While almost all children (92 per cent) are enrolled in primary school, just over half of children from poorer backgrounds complete their primary education. The gap widens in upper secondary school, where less than a quarter of poor children graduate, compared to three-quarters of children from wealthier backgrounds.

Children’s education needs in Iraq are vast: half of all public schools in the country require rehabilitation and one in three schools run multiple shifts, squeezing children’s learning time. The five governorates with the lowest school enrollment and attendance rates are concentrated in the country’s southern governorates which remain its poorest, and in Anbar and Ninawa – the two governorates that have borne the brunt of the violence of the last few years. Attending school regularly is an essential part of healing for the more than 1 million children estimated to require psychosocial support to cope with the invisible wounds of war.

“The data is the clearest indication yet that the most vulnerable children in Iraq are the ones that are most likely to fall behind,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Iraq. “The hard-won gains to end the conflict in Iraq and transition to a stable future could be lost without additional investments for all children to reach their full potential.”

Iraq has made notable progress on newborn and child health, including maintaining high levels of assisted births and reducing the number of children who die in their first month of life from 20 deaths per 1000 live births to 14 since the last survey was conducted in 2011. But the challenges arise soon after birth: Only 4 out of 10 of children are fully vaccinated, with the poorest children missing out the most.

Half of all Iraqi households are at risk of drinking contaminated water and less than 40 per cent of the population has access to drinking water at home, placing children at grave risk of waterborne diseases.

“As Iraq moves past the violence of the last few years and forges a new path for itself, it must prioritize the wellbeing of all children,” said Hawkins. “Children are the future of this country, and a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots sows discord and is detrimental for children and for Iraq. With the right commitment and the right policies in place, the Government of Iraq can make a difference.”

To maintain Iraq’s recent gains and protect the rights of all children, UNICEF calls on the Government of Iraq to invest in services that directly benefit those children affected by conflict and poverty, and to work towards putting an end to all forms of violence against children.

(Source: UNICEF)

Iraq Humanitarian Fund allocates US$5M to support nation-wide campaign to vaccinate 5M children at risk

With pockets of measles outbreaks affecting both internally displaced people (IDPs) and host communities, and considering the current epidemiological situation, the Iraq Federal Ministry of Health has declared an outbreak of measles and requested support from UNICEF and WHO for  an emergency measles vaccination campaign across the country.

To support the nation-wide campaign, the Iraq Humanitarian Fund (IHF) has launched a Reserve Allocation to channel up to $5 million to vaccinate 5 million children of 9-59 months. Risk management activities – including field project monitoring, financial spot checks and audits – will continue to be conducted to ensure the Fund’s effective and accountable management.

Since its inception in 2015, the Fund has disbursed some $221 million to support 388 humanitarian projects of 93 partner organizations. Established in June 2015, the IHF has quickly become one of the largest country-based pooled funds in the world. The Fund supports humanitarian partners to respond to the complex and dynamic crisis in Iraq, including through direct and indirect funding to national frontline responders.

Prioritizing protection, water, sanitation and health in 2018

Despite government-imposed bureaucratic impediments and persistent access constraints affecting parts of the country, humanitarian partners have expanded  their operational presence including in some newly accessible areas. Together, 105  humanitarian partners  reached 1.3 million (38 per cent) of 3.4 million people targeted under the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) in the first five months of 2018.

The IHF is providing a critical lifeline to such activities. As the fund finalizes its first Standard Allocation for the year, $34 million are going into supporting 82 projects carried out by 53 partners, targeting a total of 3.3 million people with humanitarian assistance, in line with the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) Strategic Objectives. The top three sectors covered by the allocation are Protection, Water and Sanitation, and Health. The allocation focuses on assistance to vulnerable populations in areas where displaced families are returning, support to principled returns and service provision in the remaining displacement camps.

Funding status

The IHF has received US$18.2 million in donor contributions towards 2018. With a carry forward from 2017 of $45.4 million, which includes $43 million received from the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom in late November and December 2017, the cumulative contributions to date stand at $63.6 million. The Fund’s programmable balance available for future allocations is around $24.6 million.

(Source: OCHA)

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) has appealed for runners and doners for its annual run in Alexandria, Virginia.

“More than 4 million children have been impacted by extreme violence in several areas including in Ninewa and al-Anbar.  Last year alone, 270 children were killed.  Many were robbed of their childhood, forced to fight on the frontlines.   Some will bear the physical and psychological scars for life due to exposure to unprecedented brutality.  Over 1 million children were forced to leave their homes.”

—       January 19, 2018, Statement by UNICEF Regional Director Geert Cappelaere, after visiting Iraq

During ISIS’ occupation, UNICEF called Iraq “one of the most dangerous places in the world for children.”  Now, after Iraq has driven ISIS from its strongholds, the emotional, psychological, and physical wreckage is staggering.  For everyone who loves Iraqi children, this an urgent call to action.   We call on all to Run. Give. Volunteer. Today.

RUN.  Run or walk – with us at the IN THEIR SHOES 5K  on May 5th.  Tell the world these kids are not forgotten.  We lift them up with our hearts and voices.

GIVE.  GIVE because we can’t hire a teacher or lawyer or social worker, or buy food, school supplies, and clothing without money.

VOLUNTEER.  VOLUNTEER because every volunteer on our team saves ICF money that can go directly to the Iraqi kids we all love.  We salute our 2017 volunteers who donated thousands of hours of loving service!

ARE YOU IN?

(Source: ICF)

Warning about the “alarming” state of Iraq’s healthcare system, especially in war-ravaged areas in and around Mosul, the United Nations children’s agency has stepped up its support to help the Government provide critical medical services so that children and families affected by violence and displacement can resume their lives.

With less than 10 per cent of health facilities in Iraq’s Ninewah governorate functioning at full capacity, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that as many as 750,000 children in the governorate are struggling to access basic health services although violence has subsided. Those facilities that are operational are stretched to the breaking point.

“The state of Iraq’s healthcare system is alarming,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Iraq, who has just completed a visit to the largest hospital in Mosul.

“For pregnant women, newborn babies, and children, preventable and treatable conditions can quickly escalate into a matter of life and death,” he said, warning that medical facilities are strained beyond capacity and there are critical shortages of life-saving medicines.

Three years of intense violence have devastated health facilities in Iraq. Over 60 health facilities have repeatedly come under attack since the escalation of violence in 2014, severely disrupting access to basic health services for children and families.

In Mosul, UNICEF has rehabilitated the pediatric and nutritional wards of two hospital centres, provided refrigerators to store vaccines for up to 250,000 children, and supported vaccination campaigns to immunize all children under five years old. Most health centres in the governorate have also re-started vaccination services for children.

UNICEF says the Reconstruction Conference for Iraq hosted by Kuwait next week is a unique opportunity for the Iraqi Government and the international community to put children at the heart of reconstruction, including through increased budget allocations to services for children.

Mr. Hawkins said what he saw in the hospitals in Mosul was both “heartbreaking and inspiring,” explaining that the ingenuity and dedication of health workers who are committed to giving newborn children the best possible start in life in the most challenging of circumstances is remarkable.

“They too deserve support so that they can continue to save lives,” he said.

UNICEF is appealing for $17 million to support rebuilding health facilities for children in Iraq in 2018.

(Source: UN)

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) has announced the roster of Honorary Co-Chairs for the May 5, 2018, IN THEIR SHOES 5K to benefit Iraq’s most vulnerable children:

  • His Excellency Fareed Yasseen, Ambassador of Iraq to the United States
  • Ambassador Ryan Crocker (Ret.), Former US Ambassador to Iraq and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Lt. General Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Commander, US Army North (Fifth Army), Served four tours in Iraq
  • Cynthia Ozbat and Elijah Ozbat, Gold Star Mother and brother of Cpt. Jesse Ozbat, served in Iraq, killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan
  • Zainab Salbi, Award winning humanitarian, media host, and author

And ICF welcomes back our 5K stars:  the three “Young Ambassadors” who are true testaments to the strength and resilience of Iraqi children.  Teeba was severely burned in a car bombing in Baghdad as a little girl.  Ala’a was abandoned in Iraq as a little boy with cerebral palsy.  And Humoody was shot in the face by terrorists and blinded.  Who better to represent the children of Iraq at this event?

THIS IS WHY WE RUN…

for children like Noor

Ten-year old Noor lives in poverty with her mother and little brother in a house of mud and sheet metal.   She enjoys going regularly to the Hope Bus for tutoring and a nutritious lunch, but she also works collecting empty cans from landfills to support her family.

Recently, Noor came to the bus, sobbing and saying her mother was about to die. Staff immediately went to check and discovered her mother had suffered a heart attack but didn’t have money to go to a doctor or buy medicine. They took her to a hospital, and Noor and her brother went to stay with a relative.  After several days, the mother was ready to go home and today, Noor is back in class at the Hope Bus!

Incoming ICF Chairman Mohammed Khudairi Khudairi said:

I am pleased and honored to have the opportunity to give back to the children of Iraq as the new Chairman of the Iraqi Children Foundation. As a young man spending summers in Iraq, I interacted with many underprivileged children who lived in dire conditions and those children became some of my best friends. I cherish those relationships to this day. 

“As an American and businessman, this cause is dear to my heart and I call on all our friends in the Iraqi-American community, business community, veterans, and Gold Star families to join us May 5 to run/walk ‘in their shoes’ for these vulnerable children.

(Source: ICF)

With UNICEF’s support, ACTED’s community-led approach to child protection in Qushtapa camp, Erbil, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, is broadening academic and recreational opportunities for displaced children.

Since 2014, ACTED has been providing child protection services to Syrian refugees in Qushtapa camp in Erbil governorate. From within its Child and Youth Community Centres, ACTED provides a range of educational, recreational and awareness raising activities designed to contribute to the sustained resilience of children living both in and out of the camp.

This UNICEF-sponsored project helps foster community ‘buy-in’ through encouraging residents to take part in daily ‘Community Volunteer Hour.’ Forty-eight adult camp residents currently participate through teaching school support classes in archaeology, literacy, Arabic, English, biology to the children and adolescents residing in the camp.

These volunteers also help facilitate a range of sport and arts activities which provide a vital outlet for children, many of whom have experienced hardships through war and displacement.

Prior to commencing in their volunteering roles, ACTED Child Protection Teams deliver trainings for camp residents on Child Friendly Spaces/Youth Friendly Spaces (CFS/YFS) Purposes and Principles, Child Protection in Emergencies, Planning Activities, Facilitation Skills, Classroom Management, Confidentiality, Inclusion of Children with Disabilities, and Psychological First Aid.

Such trainings contribute both to the professional development of volunteers, and also to ensuring children and youth receive quality support.

Adan, one of the forty-eight camp volunteers, said:

“The residents of the camp now understand how the Child Friendly Spaces provide both a safe place for children to spend their time and a great way for us to discover which activities are most appropriate for them. It also helps the members of the camp community to get used to running the CFS. The people quickly understood that despite the challenges, it was our responsibility to take care of the children and focus on their well-being and development.”

ACTED prioritizes self-reliance and decision-making agency among camp residents as a means of both improving camp conditions and ensuring the continuation of relevant, high-impact child protection support services after the management of such camps transitions into the hands of local actors.

(Source: ACTED)

At least one in four children in Iraq impacted by conflict and poverty

At the upcoming Kuwait conference, UNICEF calls for immediate and massive additional investment in education; a key for lasting peace and progress in Iraq

Statement by UNICEF Regional Director, Geert Cappelaere, following his visit to Iraq:

“Iraq today hosts one of UNICEF’s largest operations in the world, responding with humanitarian and development assistance to the needs of the most vulnerable girls and boys across the country.

“More than 4 million children have been impacted by extreme violence in several areas including in Ninewa and al-Anbar. Last year alone, 270 children were killed. Many were robbed of their childhood, forced to fight on the frontlines. Some will bear the physical and psychological scars for life due to exposure to unprecedented brutality. Over 1 million children were forced to leave their homes.

“While the fighting has come to an end in several areas, spikes of violence continue in others. Just this week, three bombings went off in Baghdad. Violence is not only killing and maiming children; it is destroying schools, hospitals, homes and roads. It is tearing apart the diverse social fabric and the culture of tolerance that hold communities together.

“In the northern city of Mosul, a place that witnessed unspeakable destruction, I met children who were hit hard by three years of violence. In one of the schools that UNICEF recently rehabilitated in the western parts of Mosul, I joined 12-year-old Noor in class. She told me how her family stayed in the city even during the peak of the fighting. She spoke of her fear when she was taking shelter. She lost three years of schooling and is now working hard to catch up, learning English with other boys and girls.

“Mankind may have proven once again in Mosul and other parts of Iraq its massive power to destroy and destruct. But another much stronger power left a deeper impression: the determination to rebuild and get on with life. Children were so excited speaking of their aspirations, sharing their happiness of being able to play and study again.