Iraq

Working to provide emergency child protection, education and psychosocial support in conflict-affected regions

Facts and figures

  • Total population: 37.2 million
  • Total population under 18: 17.4 million
  • Children affected by conflict: 3.3 million
  • Number of War Child projects in 2019: One
  • Number of partners providing funding: One
  • Total child participants: 230

National Context

Iraq’s four-year internal war may now have drawn to a close - but the country is still beset by violence and instability. Sporadic exchanges between the Iraqi Security Forces and armed groups affiliated with Islamic State (IS) resulted in the deaths of 797 civilians during the first nine months of 2018. A further 1,463 civilians were injured as a result of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in the same period.

The years of fighting have led to a humanitarian crisis inside Iraq - one which is very far from over. Population movements resulting from forced displacement remain significant. Nearly two million Iraqis are currently internally displaced - half of them for three years or more. And four million people have also returned to their areas of origin since hostilities eased - putting further strain on available resources.

Some 6.7 million people inside Iraq are currently in need of humanitarian assistance - more than half of whom are children. Poverty is widespread. The protracted conflict also resulted in massive damage to the country's water and sanitation infrastructure - and many parts of the country continue to face water shortages.

Situation of Children

Children in Iraq face a number of acute threats to their safety and wellbeing. These threats include the possibility of serious injury or death and forced recruitment into armed groups. Children from displaced and refugee populations are frequently required to provide for their families - leaving them vulnerable to child labour or forced into early marriage.

Access to education remains limited - some 2.6 million children inside Iraq currently require some form of educational assistance. More than half of the existing schools in formerly conflict affected governorates need rehabilitation to create a safe and protective learning environment for students.

Children living in areas previously under IS control have experienced significant and distressing events - particularly incidents of physical and mental violence. Some children have been abducted and used as human shields or child soldiers. Girls have been forced to confront gender-based violence. All of these children are in acute need of psychosocial support.

Veilige plek Irak

One of our Safe Spaces in Iraq

Photo: War Child

“We help the children deal with their fears and show them that people do care about them."
Peter Schouten, War Child Holland

What We Do

War Child Holland supports the work of War Child UK to strengthen access to education inside Iraq. More than three million Iraqi children have seen their education disrupted - the majority of whom are displaying signs of conflict-related trauma. Attacks on schools are commonplace - the country’s internal conflict saw some 150 attacks on educational facilities.

We also work to strengthen child protection structures. We work closely with families and communities, raising awareness of the particular needs and dangers for children. We reunite relatives where possible and help with income-generating activities.

Key Project

Economic Empowerment of Conflict-Affected Youth

Initiative in partnership with War Child UK to provide vulnerable youth - inside both host communities and IDP camps - with economic opportunities.

Voices of Children

Safin’s Journey to Safety

Twelve-year-old Safin is just one of the thousands of children in northern Iraq who has been forced to witness terrible violence. His long journey to the safety of a refugee camp was fraught with danger - but he has now begun to rebuild his resilience.

Safin’s life changed in 2014 when ISIS forces entered his village and unleashed a campaign of violence. ISIS fighters killed Safin’s uncle in front of his eyes. Safin and his family were forced to leave his uncle’s body behind in order to run to safety.

These traumatic experiences had a significant effect on Safin. His memories of life under ISIS control and the hard journey his family undertook left Safin living in fear. He was plagued by insomnia - and when he finally could sleep he suffered nightmares in which ISIS fighters were coming to kill him as well.

Safin began attending sessions at a Child Friendly Space run by War Child. He took part in activities with many other children his age - all of whom experienced the same fears he did.

Yet Safin initially struggled to socialise with the other children. Safin enrolled in War Child’s life skills course I DEAL which helped him to process the trauma he had experienced. The training helped him regain his normal personality.

Safin now sleeps free from nightmares. He has enrolled in school and is excited to resume his education.