Baghdad Provincial Council completed a draft law last week that, if approved by parliament, would provide comprehensive care for orphaned children in Iraq.
The law would grant every orphan a monthly salary ranging between 150,000 and 200,000 Iraqi dinars ($129-$170), as well as securing their right to receive medical care, education and social welfare, according to Nael al-Musawi, chairman of the council's social welfare committee.
The draft law was completed after in-depth studies were conducted, al-Musawi said. The committee used the studies to become familiar with, and benefit from, similar legislations passed in the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Bahrain, which have considerable experience in orphans' rights, he said.
He said the draft will be sent to the Iraqi parliament for discussion and final approval by the middle of next April at the latest.
Al-Musawi said his committee also finished building a statistical database on the number of orphaned children in Baghdad, which will help give legislative and executive entities a clearer picture on what can be done to help orphans and how to secure their rights.
It was revealed that there are around 100,000 orphans in Baghdad, al-Musawi said. This number differs from estimates made by some local civil society organisations, which claimed the number of orphaned children in Baghdad alone has surpassed one million, he said.
"Baghdad is considered the largest city in the country in terms of the number of people and the terrorist attacks in it were more destructive than in other provinces," al-Musawi said. "Therefore, the presence of this number of registered orphans enables us to estimate the overall number of orphans across Iraq to be no more than 400,000."
A report released by the United Nations in 2008, however, said there are around 870,000 children orphaned by the death of one or both parents in Iraq, while some local humanitarian organisations say that the number of Iraqi orphans may be as high as five million, or around 16% of the entire country's population.
Al-Musawi said the Baghdad Provincial Council has allocated approximately 500 million dinars ($428,000) as a first instalment to assist around 1,000 families with orphaned children, and will eventually province assistance to more than 5,000 families by the end of the year.
"We also inaugurated, in collaboration with UNICEF, a school for orphans in Sadr City, which has about 350 students," he said. "In addition, we are collaborating with the Ministry of Health and the Red Crescent Society to treat more than 1,000 orphaned children, who have special needs or those suffering from intractable medical conditions, outside Iraq at the state's expense."
Kadhim al-Shammary, a member of parliament's labour and social affairs committee, told Mawtani, "Upholding orphans' rights and providing financial, health and educational support for them is considered a top priority in parliament's current efforts."
Human rights and democracy activist Hana Edwar called for speeding up the approval of the law.
"There is serious need for this law in order to improve the situations of Iraqi orphans, improve their social environments and conditions and assist them in overcoming the psychological ordeal resulting from the loss of parental care," she told Mawtani, adding that this will help orphaned children integrate into society without falling into the traps of crime and delinquency.