In honoring World Refugee Day today, we should comprehend the impact that conflict has on the most innocent and vulnerable members of society. Five years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, more than 800,000 children have been forced to flee their homes to escape the violence. According to a report released Tuesday, most are unable to go to school and 60% do not have access to clean drinking water. More than half of the displaced children suffer from malnutrition. The mortality rate of children under 5 years old is three times higher in Iraq than in Syria or Jordan. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflicts said that displaced children, “lack access to the most basic services and manifest a wide range of psychological symptoms from the violence in their everyday lives.” Violence and conflict have defined the lives of an entire generation of Iraqi children.
What is being done to help displaced children?
The United Nations Children’s Fund, better known as UNICEF, created a new emergency response mechanism called "IMPACT: Iraq" which will begin in July. It will deliver healthcare, clean water, sanitation, and emergency education resources to 360,000 children and their families. Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said that IMACT: Iraq will, “ allow us to have better access…to address the needs of education, health water and sanitation.” The biggest hurdle to IMPACT: Iraq will be safe access for humanitarian workers to reach the families in need. There are many other obstacles, but Kaag remains optimistic. “We see a new momentum to meet the needs on the ground through stronger partnerships. Results…indicate we can deliver even under very difficult conditions.” Through efforts like this, the needs of millions of Iraqis can be addressed.
On this day reserved by the United Nations to remember refugees worldwide, please take the time to think about the lives of the millions of people who were forced to flee their homes because of violence.
Please take the first step in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Iraq by signing the EPIC Humanitarian Pledge. For more information about the Humanitarian Pledge, refugee crisis in Iraq, and World Refugee Day 2008, please read the entry below.