Children pay the high price of Iraq: UNICEF

The lives of millions of Iraqi children are still blighted by violence, poor nutrition and disrupted education more than four years after the US-led invasion, UNICEF said on Friday.

Children pay the high price of Iraq: UNICEF

The United Nations Children's Fund said in a report that few teenagers took their final exams last summer, safe drinking water remained scarce and about 1,350 children were detained by the authorities in 2007.

It also said that on average 25,000 children and their families were forced out of their homes each month to seek shelter in other parts of the country.

UNICEF said that the current reduction in violence provided a chance to help Iraqi children, gain access to those in detention, and strengthen government structures focused on young people.

"Iraqi children are paying far too high a price," said Roger Wright, UNICEF's special representative for Iraq, in the report.

"A new window of opportunity is opening, which should enable us to reach the most vulnerable with expanded, consistent support."

UNICEF said its research showed that only 28 percent of 17-year-olds sat their school leaving exams this year, and that in south and central Iraq just 40 percent achieved a pass grade.

The number of primary school age children not in education in 2006 was 760,000, but this figure has grown over the past year as more displaced children had their schooling disrupted, the report added.

At the end of 2007 about 75,000 Iraqi children lived in camps or temporary shelters -- a quarter of them forced out of their homes since the bombing in February 2006 of a Shiite shrine at the central town of Samarra triggered savage sectarian violence.

The report said that in 2007 "hundreds of children lost their lives or were injured by violence and many more had their main family wage-earner kidnapped or killed."

Despite the suffering, there were some positive signs for Iraq's children, said UNICEF, which invested more than 40 million dollars in the country during the year.

It said its funds enabled Iraqi health workers to conduct house-to-house immunisation of more than four million children against polio and more than three million children against measles, mumps and rubella.

As a result of such work, UNICEF said, Iraq remained polio-free while measles cases have fallen sharply from 9,181 in 2004 to 156 by November 2007.

About 4.7 million primary school children benefited from new school materials and new and restored classrooms paid for by UNICEF, the report said.

UNICEF said that the recent improvement in security in Iraq would reveal children's needs more clearly, and added that children from previously displaced families who chose to return to their homes were particularly at risk.

"Iraqi children are the foundation for their country's recovery," Wright said. "Where children's lives are protected and revived, community recovery will swiftly follow."

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Aralık 2007, 00:06
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