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UNICEF races to stop malnutrition in Iraq

UNICEF is giving aid to Iraqis who have escaped Mount Sinjar
UNICEF is giving aid to Iraqis who have escaped Mount Sinjar

As the war inside Iraq continues, malnutrition is an increasing threat among children. UNICEF is rushing to provide desperately needed food for children under the age of 5.

Since the army of ISIS has launched assaults on Iraqi cities and towns, over one million have been displaced. About half of these war victims are children. Many of these displaced persons (IDPs) have fled into Iraq's northern region of Kurdistan. This region is not only hosting displaced Iraqis, but also over 200,000 refugees from the civil war in Syria.

UNICEF, in a report, says it's distributing high-energy biscuits to children in the Dohuk Governorate located in Kurdistan. The food is a nutritional supplement for "under five-year old IDP children, who are suffering from lack of food and starvation."

Distributing partners include the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and ACTED. High energy-biscuits are also being provided to children who were fortunate to escape Mount Sinjar. Earlier this month, the advance of the ISIS army had forced thousands of Iraqis, members of the Yazidi religion, onto the mountain.

The U.S. air force responded by dropping food and water to the Yazidis. While many have since escaped the mountain into Northern Iraq, they are still in desperate need of assistance. Displaced Iraqis have lost basically everything and depend on humanitarian assistance from UNICEF and other agencies.

Nutrition is especially critical for small children because they are most vulnerable to the effects of the lack of food. Malnutrition can cause lasting physical and mental damage. So it's vital UNICEF distributes the biscuits and other enriched foods to prevent the malnutrition gaining strength during wartime.

UNICEF is also providing cash assistance to families arriving in the Dohuk Governorate. This will allow them to purchase food in local markets. Dr. Marzio Babille, UNICEF Iraq Representative, says, "While we are massively scaling up outreach activities, cash in hand will immediately empower families to provide their children with basic necessities when market access exists.”

The cash assistance program also will help stores in Kurdistan, a region clearly feeling the strain of hosting hundreds of thousands of displaced persons from two wars. UNICEF USA has set up a donation page for the Iraq crisis.

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