AMMAN (JT) â€” Queen Rania on Wednesday joined UNICEF in an international appeal for Iraqi children, urging the global community to act on their behalf and noting that those affected by violence and displacement have reached a critical point.Â
Speaking during a press conference at the UNICEF Jordan headquarters in Amman, the Queen said that although conditions seem unfavourable, it is imperative for the world to act now.
â€œFaced as we are with a daily barrage of bad news, some might feel that the situation is hopeless. But stepping up support right now in Iraq and in neighbouring countries is not only possible, it is also the best way to protect Iraqâ€™s future â€”Â its children,â€ she stressed.
â€œWhat children need, above all, is a resolution to this crisis. That has to be our ultimate hope. For many Iraqi children, the long-term future may be unclear, but their present needs â€”Â for education, for healthcare, for clean water and proper sanitation â€” are clear and must be met, now,â€ emphasised the Queen, adding that â€œUNICEF requires $42 million to provide and protect the services children so desperately need if they are to survive and develop,â€ she added.
â€œHumanitarian aid offers a lifeline to Iraqâ€™s children and stepping up support now is the best way to protect and invest in Iraqâ€™s future,â€ said Daniel Toole, acting deputy executive director of UNICEF and chief of emergency operations.
â€œPlans are in place to reach Iraqâ€™s most vulnerable children with basic health, water, sanitation and education support â€”Â particularly displaced children living in host communities, as well as children living in Iraqâ€™s most violent districts,â€ he added.
UNICEF will also help the Jordanian and Syrian governments in providing quality social services for the growing population of Iraqi children.
Initial priorities in these countries include ensuring that Iraqi children have full access to the classroom, healthcare and protection from exploitation.
Since 2003, nearly 15 per cent of Iraqâ€™s population have fled their homes â€”Â four million people, half of them children. Many are seeking refuge in communities that are already poor or hit by violence, pressuring already weakened social services.
Queen Rania, who was named UNICEFâ€™s first ever Eminent Advocate for Children in January of this year and is a member of the UNICEF Global Leadership Initiative for Children, noted that â€œmany of them are now here in Jordan, and in Syria. Many live in communities that were impoverished long before these children arrived, and where social services are now stretched to the breaking pointâ€.
According to UNICEF, those seeking refuge outside Iraq face an uncertain future. Complications over residency status may deter many from seeking healthcare or enrolling children in school. Among those fleeing are thousands of doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers â€”Â key service providers for children. Added to the deaths of so many fathers in the violence, this exodus is robbing Iraqâ€™s children of essential pillars of support.
â€œIraqâ€™s drain of care-givers is creating major gaps in childrenâ€™s daily lives, an issue often overlooked amid the violence,â€ said Roger Wright, UNICEF special representative for Iraq.
â€œWe need to fill these gaps to address the most debilitating effects of the insecurity.Â Conditions for too many Iraqi children are deteriorating,â€ he added.
In her statement, Queen Rania also spoke of such deterioration.
Â â€œLast week, children became this yearâ€™s first victims of cholera in Iraq, and we dread a major outbreak of this disease in the heat of summer,â€ she said.
The deterioration of Iraqâ€™s water and sanitation systems means only an estimated 30 per cent of children have access to safe water. Health services are becoming increasingly hard to access. And with many schools hit hard by insecurity and overcrowding, too few children are completing this school year with a quality education.
Toole said that Iraq is simply not secure enough to deliver a full range of assistance in many areas. But he stressed it is still possible to help a large number of children in need.
A recent UNICEF and WHO-supported national measles, mumps and rubella immunisation campaign has just reached 3.6 million children (90 per cent of its goal) in a house-to-house campaign, partly funded by the European Commission. Such generous international support to Iraq must continue, especially for children, until the government of Iraq can provide for its own, he added.
â€œOur experience operating daily inside Iraq confirms to us that aid does indeed reach children and makes a tremendous impact, even in extremely insecure areas,â€Â Toole said.
UNICEF emergency response for Iraqi children will include:
â€¢ Inside Iraq UNICEF will continue to augment water and sanitation services, including water tanker operations to some 120,000 people daily in and around Baghdad, support ongoing immunisation campaigns, provide basic health and obstetric kits, stockpile oral rehydration salts for children with diarrhoea and deliver essential medical supplies.Â Facilities in overcrowded schools will be improved, teachers and students provided with education kits and children trapped at home by insecurity will be given learning opportunities to catch up on their lessons. UNICEF will also be able to reunite separated children with relatives and offer psychosocial care.
â€¢ In Jordan UNICEF will help the government to enrol and keep Iraqi children in school, to continue to provide them with healthcare and boost child protection services.
â€¢ In Syria UNICEF will help the Syrian government provide immunisations and other health services for all Iraqi children, create safe spaces for young Iraqis and provide special protection services for vulnerable Iraqi girls and women.