Childhoods cut short
The conflict and humanitarian crisis in Iraq are pushing more children out of school and into the workforce.
In 2011, six per cent of Iraqi children aged 5 to 14 were involved in child labour. Given the economic decline since the conflict escalated in 2014, this figure is now likely to be much higher.
In addition to the 3.3 million Iraqi displaced within their own country, Iraq hosts nearly 245,000 Syrian refugees. Mustafa, 9, fled the conflict in the Anbar governorate in the west of Iraq and now works at a car repair shop in Baghdad to support his displaced family earning 2 US$/day.
Dropping out of school puts children at a life-long disadvantage, hindering their chances of escaping the cycle of poverty. Muhammed, 12, transports bricks at a factory in Najaf, often up to 12 hours per day. He would like to go to school, but can’t because he has to work to support his family.
Iraq’s turbulence over the last four decades has had a devastating impact on the country, deeply affecting the lives of ordinary Iraqi people.
Omar, 15, works in an industrial area in Baghdad. “My father was abducted in front of our house in 2007, so I work to support my family of six,” he says.
As the economic circumstances of families become more desperate, the working conditions in which children find themselves are worsening. A young girl looks for metal cans and plastic that she can sell, at a garbage dump in Baghdad.
Mohammed, 14, rests after a day’s work in Erbil. Since his family fled the Syrian conflict three years ago neither Mohammed, nor his five siblings, have attended school.
“What I would most like is to leave this job and go back to school,” he said. “I miss my pens and books and I’d like to have them back.”
Learn more about UNICEF’s work in Iraq.