Part of the Protection Cluster, the UN activated the Child Protection Sub-Cluster (CP AoR) in Iraq in September 2014, not long after the L3 declaration. With that activation, UNICEF assumed its role as Child Protection AoR Lead for Iraq. Save the Children assumed its role as Child Protection AoR co-Lead.
2021 response plan in numbers
More than 1.5 million children are in need of protection. This number represents a limited but continuous increase over the last three years. Three quarters of those children are thought to have returned to their places of origin.
Access to basic services remains a key challenge for many children. In addition to barriers imposed by missing civil documentation for more than 460,000 children and scarce income generation opportunities in areas of return, COVID-19 containment measures have impacted families’ livelihoods. This has exposed children to increased risks of labour and child marriage. Situations of neglect have also been detected in 22 per cent of the children followed by case management workers. School closures have exacerbated these risks,160 leaving 1.3 million children in need of assistance to continue education and avoid dropping out. Approximately 428,000 children need assistance to access basic health care. The number of child abuse cases reported by specialized agencies almost doubled in 2020. This problem is linked to different forms of violence against children within and outside their households.
Nearly 30 per cent of people in need of GBV services are children, many of them girls from age 9 and above, and boys from age 12 and above. Affected adolescent girls are at particular risk of child marriage, sexual assault and exploitation. Moreover, use of children by armed groups remains a concern in areas where such groups operate. Stigmatization and discrimination also affect children, especially those formerly associated with armed groups or whose families have a perceived affiliation with extremists. Children released from detention face challenges to cope and integrate into their communities, for legal, social and material reasons. Approximately 1,000 children have been deprived of their liberty on national security related charges and still require legal, physical, psychosocial and social assistance. Children with disabilities also face challenges to properly integrate due to lack of proper services, social stigma and barriers in accessing education. As a result, psychosocial trauma, stress and anxiety are second among reported protection issues for children.
The Child Protection Sub-Cluster will target 500,000 children and adults. More than 400,000 children in need of care and protection from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect will be targeted for child protection interventions. In line with the National Protection Cluster response strategy, child protec-tion actors will join efforts with partners from other sectors to achieve three main objectives: (i) ensuring that the most vulnerable children access the care and assistance they need through appropriate referrals, case management and other specialized services; (ii) providing legal assistance for boys and girls at risk, and civil documentation support for children missing key documents; and (iii) reinforcing safe environments for vulnerable children through quality PSS interventions, awareness-raising programmes and by strengthening the capacities of the local child protection system.
Partners will step-up efforts to prevent and respond to violence against children, child labour, early marriages and other forms of GBV in areas of return and among displaced populations. The implementation of new guidance and tools developed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to improve the effectiveness of adapted activities. In addition, collaboration with other sectors will remain key and will focus on training teachers and supporting schools on PSS approaches and on reducing school drop-out of children with protection concerns (with education and emergency livelihoods partners); on improving management and referrals of exploited and maltreated children (with GBV and health partners); and on informing and sensitizing families and communities of specific child protection risks, on ways of reducing them and on available support. Priority will also be given to protecting girls and boys living in high risk locations, such as those contaminated by explosive ordnance, with presence of armed groups, with chil-dren detained or released from security detention, and in the prioritized areas most affected by COVID-19.
Awareness raising and community-based efforts will reduce tensions, exclusion and barriers affecting children with a perceived affiliation with extremist groups and children with disabilities. In addition, close to 100,000 adults (including parents and caregivers, community members, and government staff including teachers) will also be supported to improve the care given to children, raise awareness on the risks affecting them, reinforce their protective environment and improve their access to key services.