Iraq Home to 1.45 Million Orphans

13/4/2011 - Iraqi officials have responded to media reports by releasing numbers on the actual number of orphaned children in the country.

Yesterday, the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights stated that the actual number of orphans in the country was 1.45 million and not the 5 million previously stated in unofficial media reports.

With Iraq’s population sitting at about 31 million people as of last’s year’s estimates, orphans constitute about 4.7% of the country’s total population. Orphans make up 9.9% of the country's child population of about 14.7 million.

This is the first time that the Iraqi government has provided official statistics on the number of orphans in the country. Minister Sudani said that media reports had exaggerated the figure. 

When using international measures, “orphan” refers to a child that has lost one or both of his/her biological parents. According to the Minister, more than 400,000 Iraqi children have lost their mothers. There are also 770,000 children that have lost their fathers. An estimated total of 200,000 children have lost both of their parents.

The Minister also warned that the number of orphans could increase in the coming times as the fighting in the country continues. Vulnerable and war-affected children living in Iraq face a variety of challenges on multiple fronts.  Poverty, single-parent households and environmental threats continue to be serious sources of vulnerability.

As per the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF), 2011 Humanitarian Action for Children: Building Resilience, “Iraqis must contend with threats of drought, decimated infrastructure and a large population of refugees and internally displaced people.”

For many children, war and violence have become an inescapable part of their daily lives. Information from UNICEF states that armed groups operating in the country are using children as scouts and lookouts, as well as to man checkpoints, transport explosives/equipment and plant bombs.

Of the 153,042 Iraqi refugees registered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Syria, there are 55,415 who are children under the age of 18. Many of the refugee children fall into “special needs” categories. For instance, 10.5% of the children (5,830) are at-risk children and teenagers, while 0.6% (328) are unaccompanied minors or separated children. Refugees from Iraq have also fled to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

 Since 2008, however, security conditions have improved, though attacks continue.

Particularly over the past two weeks, there has been a string of violence. Nine Iraqis were killed in Baghdad yesterday by gunmen and explosive devices. On Monday, 20 people were killed and 37 injured in violent acts committed across the country.

Mr. Ad Melkert is the United Nations Envoy to Iraq. Last week, Mr. Melkert said that there are, on average, 25 violent acts committed per day, but that this rate is “a lot lower than what it used to be.”