IRAQ: UN appeal for children caught up in the conflict

[23 May 2007] - Iraqi children are getting caught up in a growing humanitarian tragedy as violence continues in the country, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has warned.
Half of the four million Iraqis who have fled their homes since the conflict began are children.

And the needs of children are outstripping the international aid that has been supplied, the agency said.

More funds were needed, UNICEF said, launching an appeal for almost $42m (£21m) over the next six months.

"Violence is creating widows and orphans on a daily basis, many of whom are left to struggle for survival," it said.

"Iraq's children, already casualties of a quarter of a century of conflict and deprivation, are being caught up in a rapidly worsening humanitarian tragedy."

'Tremendous impact'

A UNICEF official based in the region, Claire Hajaj, told the BBC a crisis point for Iraq's children had already been reached.

"We're not waiting for the situation to get worse, or warning that it might get worse. It's already worse.

"They do need basic humanitarian relief, and also people in the community supporting these displaced families, particularly inside Iraq, need help too," she said.

UNICEF wants to use the funds to help provide vaccines, food, clean water and schools for children in Iraq, it said.

It also wants to help governments in Syria and Jordan to provide better healthcare for Iraqi children there.

Aid that reached Iraqi children made a big difference, the agency said.

"Our experience operating daily inside Iraq confirms to us that aid does indeed reach children and makes a tremendous impact, even in extremely insecure areas," said Daniel Toole, UNICEF's chief of emergency operations.

One such example was a recent immunisation programme under which 3.6 million children were vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, UNICEF said.

But it warned that cholera could be a problem over the summer, citing five early cases among children under 12 in the city of Najaf.

A lack of clean drinking water and healthcare could increase the danger of an outbreak, the agency said.

It plans to supply hundreds of thousands of rehydration packs which can stop the disease becoming fatal.

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