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UN: Millions of Iraqi Children Affected by Conflict, Poverty Face Grim Future

FILE - Children play on debris in a neighborhood retaken by Iraqi security forces during fighting against Islamic State militants in West Mosul, Iraq, June 25, 2017.

The U.N. children’s fund warns that millions of Iraqi children affected by conflict and poverty face a grim future and are in desperate need of international support.

UNICEF says that in Iraq more than four million children, about one quarter of all Iraqi children, live in poverty. Most of these children, it says, are scarred by years of conflict and deprivation.

The government has made great strides in bringing the fighting to an end in several areas of the country. But UNICEF notes children continue to suffer from ongoing violence, lack of education, and basic care.

The city of Mosul is a notable example. Although Iraqi government forces have succeeded in driving the militant Islamic State group out of the city, UNICEF says the aftereffects of conflict linger on and continue to have a detrimental impact on children.

UNICEF’s representative in Iraq, Peter Hawkins, says about one million children have fled Mosul. Speaking by phone from the capital Baghdad, he told VOA that particularly the many children who remain in the western part of Mosul, a former hotbed of the conflict, face multiple risks.

“The biggest threat to children in West Mosul, unquestionably is unexploded ordnance, which are being cleared everywhere. We know that that is a perennial problem. One that perhaps will never ever fully go away because of the sheer number of unexploded ordnances that are scattered in the western part of the city.”

UNICEF reports poverty and conflict have interrupted the education for three million children across Iraq. It says some have never been inside a classroom, a situation that is likely to rob them of a meaningful future.

The children’s agency is calling on the international community to provide immediate and long-term investments in education. It says this will pay huge dividends in creating a brighter and more stable Iraq.