There is now a global consensus that the socio-economic impact of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis is devastating.
Iraq is no exception, with losses of jobs and rising prices causing growing poverty. Furthermore, disruptions to basic services increase households’ deprivations and vulnerability.
Children and adolescents, who make-up more than half of the population in Iraq, are prone to bear the highest cost of rising poverty, service disruptions, and growing family stresses as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
In a newly released assessment, the Iraqi Ministry of Planning with the support of UNICEF, World Bank, and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, found that an additional 4.5 million (11.7%) of Iraqis risk falling below the poverty line as a result of the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.
This sharp increase would bring the national poverty rate to 31.7% from 20% in 2018 and the total number of poor to 11.4 million. Children and adolescents face the highest increase in poverty.
Before the pandemic broke, one out of five children and adolescents were poor. This is now set to double to over 2 out of every 5, or 37.9% of all children.
“The results capture a worrying situation especially for the most vulnerable segments of the population.
This is situation which requires a more effective response and one that focuses on social protection and cash transfers to the poorest while at the same time continuing and increasing our investments into services such as health and education, and to support poor families, especially the younger members, to find employment ,” explained His Excellency Prof. Dr. Khaled Battal Al-Najem, Iraq’s Minister of Planning.
Disruption to education, rising malnutrition, and violence are all realties that poor children currently are facing in Iraq. Poverty as experienced by the poor, especially children, is a multifaceted phenomenon that can’t be captured solely in monetary terms.
This is more so during a crisis impacting social services and families in ways that increase their risk to COVID-19 as well as to losses in wellbeing.
The assessment found that 42% of the population are vulnerable; facing a higher risk as they are deprived in more than one dimension of the following education, health, living conditions, and financial security.
For children 1 in 2 (48.8%) is at higher risk suffering deprivation in more than one of the four dimensions. Deprivation in school enrolment and access to improved water source are leading contributor to households and children’s vulnerability.
“We need to respond, and we need to do so quickly. We at UNICEF are calling for our partners in government to step-up policies aimed at protecting children from poverty and promoting children’s access to quality basic services with emphasis on addressing the learning crisis and violence against children on the short, medium and long term.
As much as COVID-19 represents a big challenge, it can also bring opportunities for strengthening partnerships with Government to respond effectively and accelerate reform to protect children and preserve their well-being. An investment in children today is an investment in the future of Iraq, said Ms.
Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF’s Representative to Iraq.