26 Dec 2012

Almost 1 million orphans in Iraq

12:55 pm on 26 December 2012

A survey in Iraq has found that between 800,000 - 1 million children have lost one or both of their parents. Aid workers believe that is a conservative figure.

The number of orphans is a serious humanitarian problem in a country that has no child protection laws.

No-one knows the exact number of children. But with bombs and assassinations still a daily occurrence, the number of orphans is continually growing.

The BBC reports the sheer number has created a social crisis in a country that has less than 200 social workers and psychiatrists for a population of 30 million people.

There are no child protection laws and officials say that welfare legislation has been held hostage to sectarian squabbling in parliament.

Deputy Minister for Social Affairs Dara Yara told the BBC that he and his staff are doing their best, in difficult political circumstances.

"We're are working day and night to improve the services we provide to orphans. But the money I'm allocated for this is very limited. And the whole social security system in this country needs reform.

"This is a humanitarian issue and it's not being prioritised by parliament. We need laws and we need money from the ministry of finance to deal with the problem."

He worries about the consequences if the orphans are not given the long-term care that they need.

"They are," he said, "very easy targets for recruitment by terrorists."