Conditions deteriorating for tens of thousands of Iraqi children, UN reports

27 August 2007 – As United Nations agencies continued to aid victims of the massive bombings that killed hundreds of people and wounded many more in northern Iraq earlier this month, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today reported growing risks to tens of thousands of displaced children in other areas of the country due to pervasive heat, poor hygiene and lack of water.

“Conditions facing many children are worsening, particularly amongst IDPs (internally displaced persons), whose numbers have now topped 1 million,” UNICEF said in an update on the situation.

“With little electricity available to power fans and air conditioners, children in central and southern Iraq are in increasing danger from heat-related conditions. Moreover, everywhere adequate water remains a significant unmet need. Of growing concern is that an increasing number of IDPs are being forced to stay in temporary camps longer.”

The agency noted that living conditions for IDPs and their host communities in Baghdad and Najaf are worst. There are currently at least 50,000 IDPs in Najaf alone, with many living in mud homes and/or camps outside the city and diarrhoea rates near outbreak levels.

Adequate nutrition remains a major issue for many Iraqi families, UNICEF stressed, adding that it is continuing to respond as best as it can despite serious funding limitations. In the last month, the agency’s water tankering operations provided 128,000 people with safe drinking water in poor communities, schools, hospitals and IDP camps across Baghdad and in parts of Anbar province.

It also delivered health and hygiene kits to 12,000 IDPs and provided recreation kits for children and support transport for local health authorities to conduct mobile health visits in collaboration with the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization. It expects to expand on this and increase the number of operating partners in the very near future.

Meanwhile, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) reported that it was working with non-governmental organisations and federal and regional authorities to strengthen the delivery of aid to the victims of the “heinous” bombings that killed over 430 people, wounded more than 500 others and destroyed an estimated 500 homes in the Sinjar region of Northern Iraq on 14 August.

Durable shelter, potable water and sanitation, medical supplies and health care, food, fuel are all urgently needed, with income generation and rehabilitation for the longer term. Road access to the area is often considered insecure due to sectarian violence, which has impeded aid delivery, prevented ambulances from transporting the wounded, and continues to block other needed public services such as the distribution of food and medical supplies.

Under these circumstances, UN agencies and many humanitarian actors have had to rely on local implementing partners. UNAMI also sought the support of the local authorities for escorts and access to affected communities. These authorities have also assisted in local coordination and provided some of their own supplies to supplement aid.

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