In a news release to commemorate the Day of the Iraqi Child, the UN Children’s Fund (UUNICEF) representative in Iraq, Marzio Babille, stated that “UNICEF remains very concerned about the continuing grave violations committed against children in Iraq and calls on all actors to cease indiscriminate acts of violence that harm children.”
According to the UN’s monitoring and reporting mechanism for grave violations of children’s rights in Iraq, 49 children have been killed and a further 169 injured in various incidents across Iraq this year alone. Thirteen grave violations affecting children's access to health and education have also been confirmed.
UNICEF is supporting the Iraqi Government to develop a Child Protection Policy and Child Law, with a nationwide consultation process being initiated to enable children, families and communities to participate in their development.
Issues that will be given priority within the child protection policy include children in conflict with the law, working children, displaced children and children living with disabilities and without parental care. According to UNICEF, widespread poverty continues to be a root cause for widespread malnutrition among children and women.
Malnutrition in the country is high, with one in three children under five years either moderately or severe stunted. Continual violence has destroyed institutions and systems of physical, social and legal protection in most parts of the country.
The loss of tens of thousands of parents and caregivers from conflict has made children even more vulnerable to harassment, exploitation, and abuse as they may find themselves orphaned and abandoned with nowhere to turn.
This severely weakened protective environment creates conditions for child labour and child marriage across Iraq.
Children are being used by armed groups as scouts, lookouts, and spies, to man checkpoints, to transport explosives and equipment, to plant explosive devices such as roadside bombs, and as suicide bombers: All activities which meet the definition of child soldiers.