Joint press release issued by:
Logo: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development Logo: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Displaced children need hope

With support from German Development Ministry, UNICEF reinforces support for refugee children

15-year-old Doua’a (centre), laughs with three of her four brothers in their tent shelter in the Garmawa camp (Irak)

27.10.2014 |

In northern Iraq, the BMZ and UNICEF will set up winter shelters and a settlement with schools, a health centre and psychosocial support programmes. In the run-up to tomorrow's conference on Syria, German Development Minister Gerd Müller and Christian Schneider, Director of UNICEF Germany, drew attention to the situation of an entire generation of children and youth in that crisis region. "We cannot, and we must not, leave an entire generation of children and youth to their fate. They need our help – now and in the coming years," noted Müller and Schneider.

After three and a half years of war in Syria and the continuing mass displacement triggered by the violence, a tragedy for children is happening in the region.

  • Since 2011, at least 70,000 babies have been born into displaced families. They have never experienced peace. Millions of children have never sat in a classroom.
  • In total, more than 6 million children and youth are affected by the conflict. More than 1.5 million children have been displaced by the violence to neighbouring countries, including at least 8,000 unaccompanied children.
  • Of the approximately 200,000 people who have been killed in the Syrian civil war so far, 8,000 were children. Children are subject to severe human rights violations – committed by all sides in the conflict. Some of the attacks of IS in Iraq are directed specifically at children.

For many children, this is the fourth winter of war they have to survive. The situation of families that have had to flee IS in Syria in Iraq in the past few months is particularly hopeless. Many of them are camping out in makeshift shelters in the mud, in half-finished buildings, in parks or on the roadside. One refugee in the Khanke camp in northern Iraq last week said to UNICEF staff: "We have survived the violence, but we don't know whether we will survive the winter."

Today and tomorrow, numerous ministers and representatives of the UN and of specialised organisations will be meeting in Berlin to discuss the refugee situation in the region. In addition to emergency aid, what is needed is the development of education opportunities and options for the future, in order to prevent a lost generation of children.

"These girls and boys have experienced violence, loss and displacement and often are forced to stay in emergency shelters in terrible conditions," said German Development Minister Müller. "They urgently need protection and special programmes. During my trips to Jordan and northern Iraq, I saw that education and psychosocial support for girls and boys is becoming more and more important, in addition to safe shelter, water and food. Only in that way will we be able to give them some options for the future again and prevent them from becoming a lost generation."

"What started in Syria three and a half years ago is now becoming the dominating experience of an entire generation of children growing up in several countries," said Christian Schneider, Director of UNICEF Germany. "Our main effort must be to give all children and youth protection, supplies, and hope for the future. Every single child that we reach through school education in Syria, northern Iraq and other countries is a beacon of hope for the region."

From winter aid to schools

Syrian child refugees participate in a logo-design competition for a back-to-school campaign, at a child-friendly space in Waar City in the northern Dohuk Governorate in Kurdistan Region

In a race against time, UNICEF is trying to get children ready for the winter in northern Iraq. Last week, UNICEF started the distribution of 185,000 winter kits for refugee children.

Each kit contains, among other things, a warm jacket, sweat pants, a rain jacket, gloves, a scarf, a hat, and shoes. The kits are prepared for various age groups. UNICEF also provides newborn kits, as well as winterised tents for emergency schools and kerosene to heat tents and other emergency shelters.

The Kurdish regional government wants to reopen schools as quickly as possible. New camps are to be set up, but works are not progressing quickly enough. So far, four new camps have been built; another twelve are under construction. In these camps, UNICEF wants to set up 18 schools with 12 classrooms each. UNICEF urgently needs donations for these schools. Schools that no longer house refugees are being refurbished. UNICEF has brought school backpacks and learning materials for 164,000 children to northern Iraq. In several camps, UNICEF and its partners are running child-friendly spaces, where children are able to play and deal with stress.

In Syria, UNICEF is providing chlorine to purify water, giving 16.5 million people clean drinking water. In 400 school clubs, 330,000 girls and boys are offered emergency classes and psychosocial support. In Jordan, UNICEF helped put 120,000 Syrian children in school in the 2013/14 school year. In 130 children's and youth centres in camps and host communities, 115,000 girls and boys attend programmes that give them opportunities to play and to get psychosocial support. In Lebanon, UNICEF distributed backpacks and school materials to 70,000 children, among other things.

Press information

Images can be downloaded free of charge from or obtained from UNICEF press officers.

Ninja Charbonneau, speaker for UNICEF Germany, is currently visiting refugee camps in Jordan. Rudi Tarneden, speaker for UNICEF Germany, has just returned from northern Iraq. Both are available for interviews.

Press unit at UNICEF Germany:
Rudi Tarneden or Kristina Müller
phone: +49 (221) 93650-315

BMZ press unit:
Petra Diroll
phone: +49 (30) 18 535 2450

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