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Video - 4.5 Million Orphans in Iraq: Protests Over Food and Shelter



4 MILLION Orphan children living in Iraq (Many face abuse and live on the streets with no food)

February 24, 2011

Feb 19, 2011 - Orphans join Iraq protests over food, shelter. Orphans join protests in Iraq to call for a better standard of living. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

BAGHDAD Ś Fadel Mohammad Ra'ad, 10, is one of thousands of children who have lost their parents to the endless violence that has been gripping Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion.

"My parents were killed in an explosion at the center of Baghdad last year, leaving me and my sister to no one," the kid told IslamOnline.net in a Baghdad orphanage.

"I have relatives but all of them have refused to take us in," he added choking at the memory.

"We were forced to work to survive."

Children, like many other civilians, are the silent victims of violence in war-torn Iraq.

"Violence in Iraq has vast characteristics. Sectarian violence, resistance against US troops, traditional behaviors and the fight against the hungry," explains Haydar Hassan Kareem, a sociologist.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs estimate that around 4,5 million children are orphans. Nearly 70 percent of them lost their parents since the invasion and the ensuing violence.

From the total number, around 600,000 children are living in the streets without a house or food to survive.

Only 700 children are living in the 18 orphanages existing in the country, lacking their most essential needs.

"Unfortunately the budget allocated to projects that help street children and orphans is decreasing day in and day out," notes an Iraqi Red Crescent employee refusing to give his name.

"Worse still, almost no NGO is dedicating itself to this group of kids who are subject to trafficking and sexual abuses in the streets."


Hamed Abdel-Sattar, 9, has to spend hours at the streets moving from one traffic light to another trying to make a living for him and his 7-year-old sister.

"My father was killed during the invasion and my mother seven months later in a suicide attack," he said.

"We don't know where our relatives are and had to steel to get enough money to buy candies and sell them today," he added.

"I know what I did is wrong but we had to eat. I think that God will forgive me," reasons the nine-year-old.

"Sometimes I cry alone and don't eat to leave it for my sister but one day I will be rich and will help all orphans in Iraq."

Living together at an abandoned shop on the outskirts of Baghdad, Abdel-Sattar says he was once sexual abused while trying to prevent his sister from being raped.

"They took me because I helped her to escape," he says, closing his eyes to the ugly memory.

Cruel Orphanages

Abdel-Sattar was taken to a local orphanage weeks after his mother was killed but run away after constant aggressions from the local employees.

"They hate us. They treat us like animals and the food was bad," he remembers.

"Everything was dirty and I couldn't see my sister being hurt anymore. I decided to take her and search for a place to stay. The streets are much better than that hell."

Ra'ad and his sister, who were recently moved to one orphanage in Baghdad, confirms the same pattern.

"Life here isn't easy and most people working at this place are cruel with children."

During a military raid in an area northwest of Baghdad in June 2007, US troops discovered more than twenty naked and abused boys at the al-Hanan orphanage.

A senior official at the government-run Al-Hanan told IOL all staffs have since been changed.

"Iraqi orphanages have a bad history of torture and bad treatments but we are trying to change this. However, we need huge investments to comfort these children and after that we will be able to receive more street children."

He argues that children are being looked after with more care and tenderness, though the children say otherwise.

Kareem, the sociologist, warns that many children will be left scared for the rest of their lives.

"Innocent children are paying for being part of this scenario.

"First they lose their parents and then they have to live in places with people who do not care about their psychological well-being."


:: Article nr. 75324 sent on 25-feb-2011 06:49 ECT


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