Escalating violence leaves 3.6 million Iraqi children at risk, report says

An Iraqi girl, who fled from Falluja because of Islamic State violence, poses for a photographer at a refugee camp in Ameriyat Falluja, south of Falluja, Iraq, June 16, 2016. Photo by Ahmed Saad/REUTERS

The "catastrophic" rise of conflict in Iraq has left one in five of the country's children at risk of death, injury, sexual violence or abduction, according to a new report from the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Based on the analysis, the number of children at risk has increased by 1.3 million in the last 18 months.

"Children in Iraq are in the firing line and are being repeatedly and relentlessly targeted," Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Iraq Representative, said in a statement. "We appeal to all parties for restraint and to respect and protect children. We must help give children the support they need to recover from the horrors of war and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq."

The report addresses the complexity of the humanitarian crisis in a country that has been ripped apart by four decades of war. Multiple armed factions have killed and injured thousands. Just today, 12 civilians were killed in separate attacks in Baghdad, the AP reported. Since 2014, UNICEF has verified 838 child deaths, and the juvenile mortality rate is rising.

The research considered the "devastating" psychological toll that violence has on children. In the Kurdistan region, more than three quarters of children exhibited behavioral changes, including excessive screaming, nightmares or violence toward others. Abduction is another major concern. Since 2014, UNICEF has verified the abduction of 1,496 children, or approximately 50 children per month.

More than 1.5 million children have been forced to flee their homes, some of them more than once. The flow of internal displacement and destruction of schools has left almost 3.5 million school-age children without an education.

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