Conditions for Iraqi children worsen sharply: UNICEF Mon Jul 16, 2:56 PM ET
Conditions for children in Iraq have deteriorated sharply in recent years as their humanitarian plight has fallen largely into neglect, a senior UNICEF official said Monday.
"I have no doubt whatsoever that the condition today is much worse," Dan Toole, acting deputy executive director of the UN Children's Fund, told journalists after being asked for a comparison with the situation under Saddam Hussein's regime.
"Children who have had to flee Iraq -- and millions have fled -- are much worse off than a year ago and they certainly are much worse off than they were three years ago," he added.
Toole said there were signs that the health and nutrition for Iraqi children was "changing for the worst", despite recently released two-year-old indicators that had shown signs of an improvement.
UNICEF said the information gleaned from people leaving Iraq, and from the agency's "quite limited" access within the country, indicated that the number of female-headed households has increased "dramatically" because mostly men have been killed in the violence there.
"Many of those women are too frightened to bring their children to health clinics, many are too frightened to send their children to school," he added
Only two-thirds of Iraqis have access to clean water, according to UNICEF.
"My concern is that the focus on Iraq is on the political situation, the security situation, it is not on the lives of Iraqis living day in, day out, with deprivation, with lack of food, with lack of medical supplies," he said.
"That says something about the attention of the world, the attention of our leaders," Toole added, urging a greater focus on the impact on children.
UNICEF says its aid programmes for children in Iraq have only received about one-third of the funding they need.
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