No room in the Inn for Iraqi children

The United Nations has called for immediate action to assist about two million Iraqi children affected by poor nutrition, disease and disrupted education.

"Iraqi children are paying far too high a price," said Roger Wright, Unicef's special representative for Iraq, in a statement. "We must act now."

Unicef, the UN's children's fund, said young Iraqis were caught up in violence, with hundreds killed or injured. An average of 25,000 children a month have fled violence or intimidation this year, with their families seeking shelter across Iraq, Unicef said.

Only 28 per cent of Iraqi 17-year-olds have sat their final exams, while safe drinking water for children remains scarce, according to the UN.

Despite the urgent needs of Iraqi children, Unicef received only $40 million towards its $144 million appeal for Iraq this year, Veronique Taveau, a Unicef spokeswoman, said in Geneva.

"A new window of opportunity is opening, which should enable us to reach the most vulnerable with expanded, consistent support," Wright said. "Iraqi children are the foundation for their country's recovery ... We continue to owe them our very best in 2008 and beyond."

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