Bitterly cold winter weather in Iraq has compounded the dire situation facing more than one million children, as the country continues to suffer from widespread violence and displacement.
Official estimates indicate that over 2.1 million people, over half of whom are children, are displaced across Iraq. The vast majority of the displaced have fled to the north, where temperatures in the winter often drop below zero. Displaced families sheltering in tents and other informal dwellings with limited access to health services are especially vulnerable to exposure, disease and death.
However, since October 2014, Unicef, with the support of partners including Save the Children, Mercy Corps, Relief International, Acted, DRC, NRC and Kurds and other ground level partners and UN and humanitarian agencies, and with donors such as KSA, has supplied over 200,000 children in hard to reach areas with sets of winter clothing.
These winter kits contained coats, hats, boots and other cold weather items. Additionally, Unicef has distributed 7,000 thermal blankets along with clothing kits. These initiatives were designed to reach the most vulnerable communities, particularly those that live in high altitudes where cold temperatures and snow comes early, families living in unfinished buildings and areas with high numbers of displaced families that have never yet received assistance.
“In conditions where children have suffered, in some cases for years, from violence and exclusion from basic services such as education, it is unacceptable for them to not have shoes, coats or hats appropriate for the winter season. Unicef has focused its limited resources and ground level information to accurately target delivery of supplies and protection services to the most vulnerable,” said Dr. Marzio Babille, Unicef Representative in Iraq.
In addition to clothing and blankets, Unicef is in the process of distributing 1,200 oil heaters, 460 fire extinguishers, and nearly 11,000 raincoats to schools. Unicef is also winterising schools with insulation and tarpaulins to prevent rain damage and flooding.
Infrastructure development to prevent flooding also includes construction of drainage facilities and the provision of solar heaters to ensure children can have warm water for bathing. However, in order to reach over 200,000 children who still require assistance, much more needs to be done, including 200,000 blankets, 25,000 heaters and 10,000 hypothermic kits.
(Source: Unicef UK)
(UNICEF image via Shutterstock)