Thank you, Chairman. In the past three months, cities and towns throughout Iraq have all suffered a similar fate. They have become desperate, lawless and asset-stripped places. As always in conflict situations, the children suffer the most. As the security situation in Baghdad and across the country continues to deteriorate, looting has now finally destroyed what three wars and 12 years of sanctions have not been able to annihilate in Iraq.
I spoke earlier today with a colleague of mine who is head of our nutrition service in Iraq. This was his verbal account of what everyday life is now like in Baghdad:
People are suffering from so many problems here: insecurity, non-availability of electrical power, poor safe water supply, lack of basic services like garbage collection, lack of salaries, high unemployment, increased crime, uncontrolled traffic jams, lack of essential medicines and medical supplies - there is looting and sabotage everywhere.
While the war in Iraq was short, its consequences have dramatically affected the lives of children and their families. Government buildings, water plants, schools and health facilities were damaged and the collapse of the Iraqi Administration has hampered vital social services. The continuing looting and insecurity further exacerbated this.
As a result of the conflict and the deterioration of social services from over a decade of sanctions, Iraq's children today suffer from a severe lack of clean water, inadequate health care and education and the dangers of unexploded ordnances and landmines, as well as exposure and exploitation. It is also important to add that today, hundreds of Iraqi children are now living and working in the streets, a relatively new phenomenon in the country that has been exacerbated since the end of the war.
Following the almost three months of lawlessness and looting, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is now in a worse situation than ever. The security situation in Baghdad and across the country is deteriorating as attacks targeting coalition forces are occurring on a daily basis. In addition, the sharp reductions in the availability of electricity and water in most of Baghdad is worsening the frustration of the city's inhabitants. United Nations agencies and NGOs are experiencing attacks on their facilities and vehicles almost on a daily basis. The humanitarian community is concerned, given the potential for civil unrest, should the current situation continue.
The key obstacles for UNICEF and other key humanitarian aid agencies remain unchanged and include various issues, such as the security of staff and facilities; the lack of operational mechanisms and replacement of looted items; the lack of norms with regard to management and financing of facilities and operations; shortages of fuel; and no telecommunication and co-ordination within Baghdad and with peripheral areas. In addition, it should be noted that UNICEF staff have yet to be allowed to access some sewage pumping stations as they are under restricted military control.
Despite the daily challenges, UNICEF successfully supported two significant events in recent weeks. School children were able to take their final examinations and Iraqi's routine immunisation campaign was restarted. UNICEF activities for the next six months will focus on increasing the availability of safe water, protecting children against vaccine preventable and water borne diseases and reducing malnutrition. UNICEF will focus on ensuring children's rights to education and protecting them from the dangers of unexploded ordnances and all forms of abuse. These activities will be undertaken through local authorities, administrative networks and the Coalition Provisional Authority, CPA.
The continuation of insecurity throughout the country may impede the implementation of planned humanitarian activities. However, all efforts will be made to ensure that the situation of Iraqi children improves in the shortest possible time. UNICEF and other UN agencies have almost daily meetings with CPA sectoral advisers. Co-ordination is the essence of the relationship with CPA since both parties are working on achieving the same objective of re-establishing Iraqi ministries.
The water and sanitation system throughout Iraq has collapsed leading to a sharp increase in diarrhoeal and water-borne diseases, especially among children. Before the war, the average child under the age of five years had up to 14 episodes of diarrhoea each year. Reports indicate that diarrhoea incidents have doubled in the past month by comparison with the previous year. UNICEF distributed two million sachets of oral rehydration salts in the last two weeks alone to address the outbreak of diarrhoeal diseases among children in Iraq.
Electricity and water supplies in Baghdad have fallen by 40% in the past week due to sabotage and looting. UNICEF is working with the CPA to restore power. One of the main problems has been looters knocking down electric pylons between northern Iraq and Baghdad to steal cables which can be melted down and sold. Baghdad, which needs 1,700 MW of electricity every day, is currently receiving approximately 750 MW - less than half of its daily requirements.
Sanitation facilities are in a similarly precarious state around the country. Sewage treatment facilities are not operating due to the breakdown of the fuel supply line, the lack of maintenance and looting. As a result, it is estimated that the amount of raw sewage being discharged daily into the Tigris River may have doubled from the pre-war estimates of 500,000 tonnes to one million tonnes. The national authorities that oversee the sector were also in a state of crisis as a result of looting. Insecurity is delaying rehabilitation and repairs because staff are staying away from work.
Given the power cuts currently affecting most of Baghdad and the related reduction in water availability, UNICEF has increased its activities to ensure minimum water and sanitation services in the city as well as in most vulnerable governorates in the south of Iraq. In particular, 73 generators have been repaired or maintained and 73 sewage pumping stations and two water compact units in Baghdad are being rehabilitated. In addition, approximately 120,000 litres of fuel are being transported every week to water treatment projects in Baghdad.
Water tankering continues, with a daily average of more than two million litres of potable water being transported to deprived areas in Baghdad. In addition, 100 water tankers are dispatched daily from Kuwait to areas south of Basra, benefiting 150,000 people. A one-month supply of chlorine has been dispatched from central warehouses to all governorates. Chlorine to cover an additional two-month supply is being procured.
Water quality is being tested in Basra in co-ordination with the Water Directorate. The results show not only a reduction in water quantity but also in water quality. The results become evident in the children's hospital in Basra. Recently, 80% of the young patients here suffered from heavy bouts of diarrhoea. With the average daily temperature in Basra over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, this crisis shows no signs of abating.
UNICEF is teaming up with UNDP to address some of the urgent issues through repairing water networks and procuring generators. We are greatly alarmed by the present situation in Basra in particular. A large percentage of the city does not receive a stable water supply. It is our clear understanding that the tension in the population relating to insufficient water supply is increasing.
This tension can be clearly seen in the hospitals throughout Basra where guards armed with Kalashnikovs control the entrances of many hospitals. On a daily basis, armed gunmen threaten hospital staff with death if they do not save friends or fellow gang members brought in after the city's latest gun battle. Much of the simple fabric of day-to-day life in Iraq has collapsed. Where relatives were formerly only allowed to visit hospital patients at strictly controlled hours, they now keep a permanent bedside vigil, threatening doctors with violence if lives are not saved.
On health and nutrition, there is now heavy damage to the already fragile health infrastructure in Iraq. In addition, due to continuing insecurity prevailing in major urban centres, professional health staff, as well as patients, must overcome serious risks in order to access health centres and facilities. Breaks in the distribution system of drugs and medical supplies led to shortages and resulted in the closure of primary health care centres, which were the essential primary focal point for health care in Iraq before the war.
Diarrhoeal diseases, including cholera, have been endemic in Iraq over the past decade, ranking among the top three causes of childhood deaths. This situation has rapidly worsened in the past two months due to the breakdown of the electricity, water and sanitation services, and the collapse of the responsible Ministries. The disruption in electricity, the lack of backup generators and fuel shortages compromised the cold chain system, damaging most vaccines. The health of children and women is further threatened by the lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation as garbage is piling up on residential streets, and raw sewage seeping into heavily populated neighbourhoods and homes. The looting and anarchy have seriously damaged the entire health system, creating the fear that eliminated diseases such as polio - Iraq was declared polio free in 1999 - tetanus and measles could reappear.
While UNICEF has secured vaccines to cover needs for the next six months, all 18 governorates have now been provided with a three-month supply of BCG, polio, DPT, measles, TT, and hepatitis vaccines. UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health to launch routine immunisation services on 14 June, the first immunisation activity to take place since the war started. The routine immunisation is now ongoing everywhere in the country, with approximately 80% of facilities capable of resuming their routine immunisation services. Some 4.2 million children under the age of five have been immunised against preventable diseases. The World Health Organisation also contributed to the reactivation of Iraq's expanded programme of immunisation by re-establishing the country's vital disease surveillance system. The remaining 20% of health facilities that are still non-operational are suffering from insecurity, lack of transportation and communication systems, power failure and no salary payment for staff.
The targeted nutrition programme is slowly being reactivated, in addition to procuring and distributing supplies, including high-protein biscuits and therapeutic milk. While some nutrition rehabilitation centres are now operational, as in Muthana and Basra governorates, most centres are not yet ready to admit malnourished children as they still lack necessary equipment. In such cases, children are referred to paediatric hospitals. Health supplies such as antibiotics, IV fluids, syringes, safety boxes and obstetric and minor surgery instruments have been distributed in a variety of other governorates.
The education sector has suffered additional deterioration from the conflict and its aftermath. Preliminary assessment results in all central and southern areas show that most schools have lost all educational materials and equipment as a result of looting which followed the bombing. Some schools have been totally destroyed during the conflict, with particularly urgent needs found in the south where the condition of schools was especially poor in the pre-war period. Moreover, many schools were used by the Iraqi military as ammunition depots for heavy weapons and artillery and are still littered with ammunition. Some schools are currently occupied by the coalition and are used as military bases or have been occupied by new political parties. UNICEF has been vocal in requests that all military would move away from schools.
At present, and in the immediate future, ensuring efficient organisation and conduct of final examinations across the country remain the major challenge for UNICEF and its partners. Planning for the exams involved UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and representatives of the police. Safety issues were reviewed such as costs for transport of exams, student IDs, communication and extra police escorts prior to the commencement of the non-terminal exams - non-end of cycle - which started on June 21. These have now been successfully completed, with approximately 4.5 million children having undertaken the exams. Given prevailing conditions, this can be considered a major achievement, especially as no security incidents have been reported.
The remaining one million children will undertake the terminal exams during the month of July. UNICEF is currently assisting in the planning and implementation of the national terminal exams of the primary, intermediate and secondary schools. Precautionary security measures are also being planned along with the educational and logistics issues related to the organisation of the final exams.
UNICEF's support for this milestone includes the printing and delivering at directorate level of 15 million exam booklets, stationery, pens, computers and photocopiers for the Ministry of Education, and a radio and television social mobilisation campaign.
With regard to rehabilitation of schools, much accelerated work needs to be done to ensure that the country's schools are fit for children. In this context, UNICEF is playing a key co-ordinating role by providing vital data/information for all partners involved in rehabilitation of schools and educational infrastructure. UNICEF has also recruited a large team of engineers to undertake technical assessments of about 1,000 schools in the south and centre over the coming months.
More important, UNICEF has now finalised planning and necessary advance action for procurement of large quantities of education kits. The plan is to provide adequate teaching and learning materials for all primary schools across Iraq by the start of the new school year in mid-September. These kits include supplies for use by children, teachers and schools. While the supplies are in the pipeline and expected to be pre-positioned across all governorates by first week of September, UNICEF is currently finalising, with key partners, the micro plans for this massive back-to-school programme.
On child protection, the protective environment for Iraqi children, which would safeguard them effectively against violence, abuse, exploitation and deprivation of primary care givers, is a priority for UNICEF and now suffers from very serious gaps. The consequences of the conflict are expected to exacerbate the already deteriorated socio-economic conditions and impoverishment which have affected the majority of Iraqi families over the past decade, thus increasing the existing number of children in need of protection-related services.
The absence of the administration of justice, a weak legal framework, and the need to ensure compliance with international norms and standards are serious concerns. The administrative structure of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which was responsible for guaranteeing a protective environment for children, collapsed after the conflict. Schools were closed for about two months and many residential care institutions, including orphanages and schools for disabled children, were systematically looted of their supplies and equipment.
Children in conflict with the law who were held in institutions or reformatories have been released, and it is assumed that many of them ended up in the streets with no support. There are several indications that a growing number of children are living in the streets. For example, there is a visible increase in the number of working children in urban centres such as Baghdad, especially near big hotels, religious places and commercial centres. Children living on the streets are obviously at greater risk of violence and exploitation, including economic and sexual exploitation. Disturbing events, such as the kidnapping of young girls, of which two cases have been confirmed to date, have added to the insecurity that discourages parents from sending their girls to school, and this is a trend about which UNICEF is extremely concerned. This pressing reality adds to the urgent need for schools to re-open and for constructive recreation facilities and activities to remain accessible during the coming holidays as they provide children with the normality needed to cope with their distress.
UNICEF's collaboration with five international aid organisations to investigate the situation in which children live in Iraq today is moving ahead with the planned assessments on child protection which began on 30 June. These studies will assess children's well-being and the coping mechanisms that exist within their families and communities to help them overcome the challenges they face in post-war Iraq.
The study is important because it will cover all 18 governorates in Iraq and will collect information from children to ensure that their voices are heard and integrated into new programmes to assist them and fill the information void. The project will identify especially vulnerable groups of children, including street children, working children, institutionalised children and children in conflict with the law. It will map out where these children are, their needs and what areas of the country require attention.
The massive bombardment during the conflict resulted in a huge amount of unexploded ordnance which threatens the lives of civilians. Children represent by far the largest group of victims of these remnants of conflict. Hospitals report hundreds of cases of mutilations and injuries, especially of children, with at least four children being injured by landmines on a daily basis in Baghdad alone. Unexploded ordnance, landmines and abandoned live ammunition will continue to be a problem in Iraq for years to come as it is now described as the most contaminated country. The pervasiveness of the problem is so huge that military and non-governmental organisation representatives admit that this is beyond their abilities. Mine awareness programmes are being developed. However, it is feared that many civilians, including children, will continue to fall victim to these deadly remnants of war if a huge clean-up effort is not undertaken urgently.
UNICEF has undertaken a wide range of activities to revitalise mine awareness in Iraq. We have conducted a rapid assessment of risky areas with civil defence department personnel, trained civil defence office personnel to develop a work plan for a more in-depth assessment of these areas, distributed to community groups 750,000 copies of an educational leaflet on unexploded ordnance for schoolchildren, and revised existing television spots on unexploded ordnance to ensure new types of ordnance and awareness measures.
As of 30 June, UNICEF has received almost $85 million from international governments for its emergency appeal for Iraq. We acknowledge the support of the Irish Government and especially the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, for his support in recent months. To date, ECHO has donated more than $6 million and last week the European Union approved a new humanitarian aid package worth €37 million to help victims of the ongoing crisis in Iraq. UNICEF Ireland has had a very successful fund-raising campaign with the people of Ireland responding extraordinarily generously to our appeals for assistance for the women and children of Iraq. To date, of the UNICEF family of national committees, that is, donors from the private sector in the 37 national committee countries, we have raised $25 million for the Iraqi emergency appeal. In all, UNICEF has raised about $100 million in its global flash appeal but we are still far short of the $182 million we require.
UNICEF's immediate concern is the sharp reduction in the availability of electricity and water in most of Baghdad and key cities and towns. It is exacerbating the frustration of the inhabitants. Given the power cuts affecting most of Baghdad and the related reduction in water availability, UNICEF has increased its support to essential activities to ensure minimum water and sanitation services in the city as well as in most vulnerable governorates in the south of Iraq.
Despite all the daily challenges, UNICEF has successfully supported two significant events in the daily lives of children. Routine immunisation is back and schoolchildren were able to take their final exams. Both activities were successfully implemented on a national scale bringing together various humanitarian aid partners. The experience and confidence gained by all through the successful organisation of these two national campaigns will greatly facilitate further activities to be undertaken for the children of Iraq. However, we realise in UNICEF that we have many challenges facing us in future.