When education means hope
Emergency schools for children in Iraq
Mark Devlin, Unicef UK’s Chief Operating Officer, writes from a recent trip to Iraq, where he met children and families displaced by conflict.
It was obvious from the outset that the camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) and Syrian refugees in northern Iraq are not somewhere any of us would choose to live with our families.
On day one, I had travelled to Harsham IDP camp outside Erbil, Iraq, to meet with the Unicef staff who are working around the clock, providing essential services and protection for children.
The scale of the crisis in this region is huge. Over the last five years, 245,000 Syrian people have fled to Iraq to escape the conflict in their country. Around 97% of these refugees have been received in the Kurdistan region of Iraq that I was visiting. Within Iraq itself, there has been a mass displacement of over 3.3 million people from their homes since early 2014, half of whom are children.
One statistic in particular frightened me: 70% of refugee children in Iraq have now missed at least one year of school. I can’t imagine this happening to my own children. Unfortunately, it is a direct result of the destruction and abandonment of schools due to the ongoing conflict in the region, which has left almost five and a half thousand schools destroyed or out of use.
Hope for a brighter future – with your help
As we left the camp, a group of three young boys ran along the mud road of the camp with kites sailing high behind them. The image reminded me of the very powerful book, The Kite Runner by Afghan author Khaled Hosseini. It was uplifting to see these boys happy and playing together.
The schools, child-friendly spaces and protection activities we’re supporting provide essential hope and security, so that some day Ahmed, Dahel, Hozan and Nidhal will be able to fulfil their dreams.
But many children are still missing out. With your support, Unicef can bring hope for a brighter future through education to more children whose lives have been ripped apart by conflict.