In times of conflict, children’s vulnerability is particularly accentuated. In addition to the daily struggle to meet their basic needs, they have to cope with the psychological trauma that they have endured during the conflict. Further, some of them bear the additional consequences of physical injuries. It is in these difficult times that the closeness and support of family matters most.
For many children, unfortunately, relying on their parents during and in the aftermath of a conflict is not possible. Loss of family members and family separation leave many children in conflict-affected places alone. During military operations, in fact, the chaos of multiple displacements often causes family members to scatter. In the longer term, the lack of economic opportunities in their country of origin, together with the desire to ensure a better future for their children at home, often drives parents to relocate in another country. While family reunification is their ultimate goal, initially it may not be possible for the whole family to move, and consequently, some children are temporarily left behind.
In Iraq, separation from their families is one of the main child protection concern for the 1.4 million children who have been displaced within the country since 2014, when the ISIL emerged as an armed group. For ACTED, child protection is one of the core sectors of intervention, and over the past two years, many programmes targeting children have been implemented, largely funded by UNICEF and UNHCR. In addition to providing safe spaces where children can play and learn, child protection teams are addressing individual cases of particularly vulnerable children through case management.
In Iraq, ACTED implements several child protection projects, which aim at providing both case management and psychological support, non-formal education and recreational activities to displaced boys and girls, living in and out of camps. These activities are implemented by child protection mobile teams, which operate both in camps and non-camp settings.
One of these mobile teams was operating in a town in Ninewa governorate, where it came across the story of three separated children. Jahmir, Nasim and Noora are three Iraqi siblings aged 7 to 15 who come from a town in Ninewa province, 130 km from Mosul. In August 2014, amid the protracted armed violence, they were displaced from their home. Together with their family, they relocated in a town north-east of Mosul, where they have been living until now.
However, their life changed when, in December 2016, their parents moved to Germany: in addition to joining their other son, who was living there, this represented for them an opportunity to find a stable job, improve their life, and in turn guaranteeing a better future to Jahmir, Nasim and Noora. At the same time the children, who initially were not able to go with their parents, remained in Iraq, and since December they have been living with their older brother.
In January, one of ACTED child protection mobile teams operating in Ninewa governorate to conduct recreational activities and case management for displaced children met Jahmir, Nasim and Noora during one of the home-to-home visits. ACTED caseworkers listened to their story.
The children opened up, expressing their hope and desire to be reunified with their family. They revealed to caseworkers their need to have their parents’ support, especially Noora, who suffers from a physical disability. Recognising their vulnerability, ACTED decided to conduct a best interest assessment, to evaluate the risks they faced and determine what solutions could be taken to improve their well-being. The results of the assessment were then sent to UNHCR, in charge of family reunifications.
The dedication of ACTED child protection staff, together with a good coordination with a key partner organisation, will soon allow Jahmir, Nasim and Noora to see their parents again, and to the family to be finally reunited in Germany.