“I feel blessed waking up every day knowing that my parents are still alive,” – EPIC intern Farah Rasool, who lived in the heart of Baghdad with her family until late 2006.
Imagine waking up one day and finding yourself without a family. As adults living in the United States this is a horrific thought. Thankfully, the probability of that actually occurring is quite low here but for thousands of children in Iraq, losing one or both parents in the blink of an eye has become a very real possibility. Violence in Iraq has been on the rise in recent months and many are warning of the potential for another civil war. Even without the escalation of sectarian violence, the spillover of the Syrian crisis into Iraq is an imminent threat.
Unfortunately, with the increase of lethal violence comes an increase in the number of orphans. Current estimates of the number of orphans in Iraq are at a staggering 800,000 – most of whom are living on the streets. The cultures of the United States and Iraq, however, differ significantly in regards to caring for orphans. While the United States encourages adoption and offers the foster care system as viable options for orphaned children, in Iraq, caring for children that are unrelated to you is uncommon. Though family members will often adopt orphaned children in Iraq, if for some reason they can’t, orphans are generally left to fend for themselves.
Because the international community’s interest in providing aid to Iraq is waning, poverty continues to cripple the needs of Iraqi orphans. The growing number of orphans in Iraq illustrates the great tragedy of violence and war wherein many children have ended up with no family, no home, and no future. With nearly 40% of Iraq’s population under the age of 15, it is crucial that Iraq’s youth, orphaned or otherwise, are cared for and educated in order to shield them from violence and being recruited into less legitimate organizations . We here at EPIC need your help to remind President Obama that Iraq matters! Please sign our petition to put Iraq back on the agenda!