Since 2003, Iraq has faced a succession of crises and conflicts that have severely affected its population. Since 2014 and the emergence of the Islamic State (IS) in the northern and western areas, the security situation has considerably deteriorated. The population had to choose between taking refuge in IDP camps or abroad and living for several years under the occupation of the group. In 2016, the Iraqi government regained possession of the entire country, but unrest continues to disturb the country as it tries to recover.
Since 1st of October 2019, large-scale social protests have been taking place across the country with Baghdad as the epicentre. Several hundred demonstrators have been killed during these demonstrations. Initially focused on specific issues such as youth unemployment, poverty and corruption in the country, the demonstrators' demands gradually shifted towards a global desire to overhaul Iraq's socio-political system.
Iraq is now facing new challenges, including economic and socio-political ones. These challenges must be reconciled in order to build a lasting peace and to ensure the security of a divided country marked by the aftermath of chronic wars.
In total, nearly 6 million Iraqis1 have been forced to leave by the conflict since 2014, when Mosul was taken by IS. As of 31st of October 2019, more than 1.4 million Iraqis2 were still displaced across the country. The latter have sought refuge in camps located mainly in the Governorate of Nineveh, near Mosul, as well as in urban areas, particularly in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region3. In addition to this displaced population, there are refugees from neighbouring countries, mainly from Syria, fleeing confrontation as well as the presence of armed groups on their territory. Insecurity, lack of infrastructure and living conditions deteriorated by the conflict are prolonging the exile of displaced populations.
Social and community equilibria are severely weakened by a predominantly Shia population, a Sunni minority too often perceived as IS supporters and minorities severely affected by the conflict (Yezidis, Christians and many other groups). Divisions are deep and segregation along community lines is a reality in conflict-affected areas. Despite the recovery of the entire territory occupied by the Islamic State, dormant cell activism maintains instability in some areas. Furthermore, former conflict areas remain in a precarious situation: mined land, destroyed homes and buildings, lack of infrastructure and basic public services.
In these circumstances, access to formal education is very limited for many children and many of them are at-risk and require protection. The fragility of the educational system, the distance from schools and school fees are compounded by difficulties resulting directly from the conflict, in particular the loss of administrative and legal documents that prevents access to public services, including education.
In 2018, 41% of children affected by the conflict had little or no access to educational services4. 50% of schools have been destroyed in the governorates affected by the fight against IS5. For the many children who have been out of school for four years or more, reintegration into the mainstream school system is unthinkable. Unfortunately, the majority of out-of-school children (68%) are adolescents whose distress is reported by parents and social workers6. This population is subject to social marginalisation and is particularly exposed to child labour, early marriage, recruitment into armed groups and risk of radicalisation.
In response to these vulnerable situations, TGH is setting up child protection programmes. Through its specific child protection unit, TGH provides psychosocial support to thousands of children and their families in the IDP camps of Khazer and Salamyiah as well as in the Balad area (Salahadin Governorate). TGH coordinates the care and response provided to child protection cases requiring external support (medical NGOs, national child protection services, etc.) to ensure children receive the most appropriate care.
In addition to its child protection activities, TGH is part of a dynamic of national capacity building for actors involved in child protection, starting with the Ministry and the Department of Labour and Social Affairs (MoSA/DoSA). The organisation has played a significant role in the development of child protection guidelines in both Iraqi Kurdistan and federal Iraq.
The organisation is also implementing food security and livelihood programmes focusing on water resource management, rehabilitation of agricultural infrastructure, veterinary care, economic recovery and population empowerment. These programmes help to revive agricultural economic activity, a crucial sector in rural Iraq, and encourage people to return to the villages where they belong.
1International Organization for Migration (IOM), Iraq
2International Organization for Migration, displacement tracking matrix, url: http://iraqdtm.iom.int/
3International Organization for Migration (IOM), Iraq
4Compilation of data from the Multi-Cluster Needs Assessment and the Ministry of Education
5Education Cluster Strategy, Iraq, 2019