It’s pretty amazing how little Iraq is in the news these days. After all, there are still approximately 130,000 American troops in the country, (though between 35,000 and 50,000 troops are expected to pull out of Iraq by August). And there are still bombings every week that kill innocent Iraqis, including children.
|© UNICEF/MENA06031/Giacomo Pirozzi|
A boy fills his cupped hands with water from a UNICEF-supplied tap in the village of Kanikhan, some 65 km west of the city of Suleimaniyah.
Generally, though, the country continues to get safer. More stable. And this is very good news. One result? After six years of managing operational response from neighboring Amman, Jordan, UNICEF Iraq is relocating senior staff to Baghdad. In the coming year, all members of the country office will be moving to Iraq.
Don’t get me wrong”UNICEF has been working inside Iraq this whole time. But, for security reasons, our non-Iraqi staff has been based in Amman, making trips in and out of Iraq whenever feasible. This is true of all humanitarian organizations I know of. And though we’ve been doing great work for children in Iraq, there’s no doubt it will be easier when we’re fully based in Baghdad.
One area UNICEF is focusing on in Iraq”the lack of safe water and sanitation. Currently, 6 million people (75% of them in rural communities) have no access to safe drinking water. As a result, waterborne illnesses like cholera are a constant threat. During the months of April, May and June, UNICEF helped distribute approximately 110 million liters of potable water to 138,000 people in residential areas and five main hospitals in Baghdad suffering from water shortages.
Recently, UNICEF began a $10 million project to help improve Iraq’s water and sanitation services. The project will provide more than 100,00 people”including children at 30 schools”with improved access to water and sanitation facilities. UNICEF is also installing and repairing water purification and treatment units, distributing water and hygiene supplies to families and creating public service campaigns that talk about the importance of treating unclean drinking water.
|© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-0638/Michael Kamber|
A girl stands near a bullet-riddled wall in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad.
Of course UNICEF is doing a lot more in Iraq than all those water-related programs. Among other things