The oil-rich Kirkuk province in northern Iraq lies at the centre of the political, social, cultural and economic conflict between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmans. Its residents are no strangers to migration. Forced to move out of the province under Saddam Hussein, many were pushed to move back following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Today, there are over 120,000 registered displaced families in the province.
Many have had to start their life over from scratch in a region that is far from stable. There are risks of explosions, assassinations and an on-going fight with Islamist militants on the outskirts of Kirkuk.
Aid agencies are struggling to cope with the number of internally displaced people and as in most conflict situations; the children are the most affected and the most vulnerable.
The National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR) was established in 2005 to address the needs of displaced communities and to promote human rights awareness, particularly among women and children.
It works for the protection of children who face the threat of violence and exploitation through awareness campaigns, capacity building workshops and the provision of safe spaces for children.
Through its Children Friendly Space programme, the NIHR runs centres that each accommodate 500 children offering games, toys, painting, drawing, knitting, sports and reading workshops.
Over 3,100 children have benefited from the Children Friendly Space programme while 22,000 displaced families received much-needed relief packs and 31,000 were given hygiene kits.
NIHR offers psychological support at a camp for displaced people to the east of Kirkuk city and has offered legal aid to 125 people through its Legal Clinic programme that was launched in January 2015.
NIHR is the only local NGO that is actively working in the field of child protection and development in Kirkuk and neighbouring provinces.
Photos: Hawre Khalid/Stars Foundation