In a report published in June, UNICEF noted that “violence and loss of income are forcing more families to send their children to work”. The report estimated that more than 575,000 Iraqi children have been put to work, double the number from 1990. “Today, Iraq is one of the most dangerous places for children to live – not exactly the country where you wish to be a child,” Maulid Warfa, a regional officer for UNICEF, told.
The effects of the conflict in Iraq on children are clear: Nearly one in five schools have closed, while more than three million children are at risk of death, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups – an increase of more than one million over the past 18 months, according to the UN agency.
“Iraqi children are exposed to danger from a very early age – as early as seven or eight years old,” Warfa said. “They work in chemical factories or in garbage collection sites without any kind of protection. They work for long hours, and you can see them exhausted … [This] is destroying their future, and – as all they want is to play, go to school, and be loved and protected by their families – we still can’t imagine what will happen to them.”