Reintegration of children in Iraq

Réintégration des enfants en Irak

Twenty years after the start of the last Gulf War, Iraq is now in a slightly more stable situation. This also affects the way humanitarian aid is provided in the country, which is still confronted with the consequences of the war against IS. Specialised in access to justice, the Swiss children's aid organisation Terre des hommes accompanies children who have been in detention to reintegrate into society.

Monday marks 20 years since the last Gulf War began. After the subsequent occupation and the war against the Islamic State (IS), Iraq has now regained some stability. However, the needs of the population are still great. 

Iraqi children are growing up in a country severely affected by corruption and the consequences of climate change, where solid social cohesion and respect for rights are far from being achieved. Ali* was forced to join an armed group as a child. The now 22-year-old describes the time after his arrest as "hopeless" until he worked out a care plan with a social worker from the Swiss children's aid organisation Terre des hommes (Tdh) and she later helped him and his family to open their own business. 

More than a thousand children and young people are still detained because they are suspected of belonging to armed groups, in particular IS. Specialising in access to justice, Tdh supports a national project in Iraq for the reintegration of these children and young people to help them gain a perspective for the future. 

Humanitarian aid in Iraq: from compensation to sustainable support 

The stability the Iraqi state has gained has had an impact on humanitarian aid in the country. Xavier Duvauchelle, Tdh's Deputy Head of Operations for the Middle East and North Africa, explains: “In the past, international organisations provided emergency aid and compensated for the lack of services provided by the state. Today, it is about supporting the population with long-term projects and working with local actors.” 

Tdh is one of the few organisations with local access to detention centres that works to improve the conditions in which children are held. It ensures that children, the youngest of whom are 9 years old, are placed in facilities that are both appropriate to their age and in compliance with applicable international conventions. Thanks to child-friendly legal support, they can access their right to a fair trial, and they receive psychological support from professionals to help them process what they have experienced. Once they are ready to return to their communities, Tdh supports them in making social connections, going back to school or finding suitable work. For a successful reintegration into society, working with communities is key. 

"Social cohesion is essential for children to find their place in society again and regain the trust of their community," says Xavier Duvauchelle. 

*The name has been changed to protect the identity. 

Tdh in Iraq 

Tdh has been working since 2014 in Iraq, where over 60 per cent of internally displaced people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The Tdh team carries out activities to promote the physical and psychological well-being of vulnerable children and their communities. We provide alternatives to detention for children in contact with the justice system, improve water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, and conduct educational activities to promote the return to school. Last year, Tdh supported nearly a thousand children in contact with the justice system to reintegrate into their communities. Read more. The Terre des hommes Foundation (Tdh) is the leading Swiss organisation for children's aid. We aspire to a world in which the rights of children, as defined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, are always respected. A world in which children can thrive in safe environments and become agents of change they wish to see in their lives. 

Photo: ©Tdh/Peter Käser

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