Iraq sees 600% rise in COVID-19 cases in June

By John Lee.

With a 600 per cent rise in COVID-19 cases in Iraq through June, efforts must be re-doubled to slow the spread of the disease, warns the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

With the number of confirmed cases standing at 53,708 on July 1 - up from 6,868 on June 1 - the Ministry of Health has announced that hospitals are almost at full capacity, and that schools and universities will be converted into isolation units to cope with the ever-increasing number of cases.

In addition to the direct impact the pandemic is having on people's health, thousands of people have been affected indirectly by the economic impacts of the lockdown.

More here.

(Source: IRC)

Finland supports Iraq’s fight against COVID-19

The Government of Finland has committed €2 million (US$2.2 million) to support the Government of Iraq's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq.

The funds will be used to support UNDP Iraq's COVID-19 response package, which is being implemented under the umbrella of UNDP Iraq's Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), established to repair critical infrastructure and services damaged by ISIL.

Measures to combat the virus under the COVID-19 response package include increasing the testing capacity of laboratories, providing personal protective equipment to healthcare workers, increasing the number of isolation wards, and undertaking assessments to establish post-COVID-19 recovery strategies.

Focusing on the most vulnerable communities in Iraq, activities will be rolled out in hospitals selected by local authorities in the underserved areas of Anbar, Basra, Diyala, Dohuk, Karbala, Kirkuk, Najaf, Ninewa and Salah Al-Din.

UNDP Iraq's Resident Representative, Zena Ali Ahmad, said:

"While the entire country is impacted by the emergence of COVID-19, it's the vulnerable communities - including displaced communities, people living with a disability, women, and the elderly - who will carry most of the burden. We're extremely grateful for Finland's support which will help us target these vulnerable communities."

Finland's Ambassador to Iraq Mr. Vesa Häkkinen (pictured), added:

"Iraq is facing a multitude of challenges as it recovers from a long conflict. Finland wants to support the stability of Iraq and to strengthen its preparedness and response to COVID-19 emergency. UNDP is in the frontline supporting Iraq's national healthcare system in tackling the outbreak."

Finland is one of UNDP Iraq's key partners, providing more than $12.1 million to UNDP Iraq's FFS since 2015.

(Sources: Reliefweb, Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs)

Displaced Iraqis face Job Losses, Food Shortages

By Al-Monitor staff. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Survey: Displaced Iraqis experiencing job losses, food shortages amid pandemic

The majority of displaced Iraqis have experienced job losses, food shortages and more during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey by humanitarian organizations working in the country.

Click here to read the full story.

Complex Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security in Iraq

New report from FAO, IFAD, WFP and the World Bank reveals complex impact of COVID-19 on food security in Iraq

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Bank have collected and analyzed new data on the impact of the crisis on food security, and made corresponding joint recommendations in the first report of a new regular series, "The Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security in Iraq."

Many people have been unable to work during the current crisis. Around 4.8 million people (12% of the total population) are using negative coping strategies to meet their food needs, and a large stimulus package will be required to re-start the economy, beyond the current measures to mitigate the impact on households and businesses.

On the other hand, food availability has been stable overall, with above-average cereal production in the 2019/2020 season, and the government of Iraq taking a proactive role to keep the food system open despite lockdowns. Food imports have continued, with global trade largely uninterrupted.

Humanitarian, social protection and development responses have stepped up, both from the government (such as "Minha" - "Grant") and supporting partners. However, global trends have had a cascading impact on Iraq. The fall in oil prices and the slow recovery of the global oil market have had negative implications for the domestic budget, and may affect the government's ability to continue to fund social protection programmes and agriculture subsidies.

With assistance from Food Security Cluster partners and the Cash Consortium of Iraq, FAO, IFAD, WFP and the World Bank analyzed food availability and access, with a particular focus on vulnerable populations, and jointly made policy recommendations.

"With initiatives to work towards a regional trade integration framework, create an enabling environment for increasing domestic production, invest in productive infrastructure, enhance social protection and monitor food security, vulnerable households can continue to have access to nutritious food. All possible efforts will be made to support the government of Iraq and implement the proposed recommendations," said FAO Representative in Iraq Dr Salah El Hajj Hassan, IFAD Representative for Iraq Tarek Ahmed, WFP Iraq Representative Abdirahman Meygag, and World Bank Iraq Representative Ramzi Neman, in a joint statement.

The new publication builds on the partners' weekly reports on COVID-19 and food security, which launched in April and continue to be released.

Download a copy of the new report at: https://bit.ly/2VDbH3a

(Source: UN)

UNFPA in Iraq welcomes New Representative

Dr Rita Columbia (pictured), an American national, assumed her responsibilities as UNFPA Representative to Iraq on 1 July 2020. Previously, she served as UNFPA Representative to Moldova and Country Director for Albania.

Dr Columbia has more than 20 years of experience in the area of public health, sexual and reproductive health as well as programme management and advocacy. She worked in governmental institutions, non-governmental sector and UNFPA.

In 1997, she headed the first country programme of Pathfinder International in Kazakhstan, and a few years later she joined UNFPA country office in Kazakhstan leading a programme on sexual and reproductive health.

She managed regional and global programmes while working in the International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network and International Youth Foundation.

In 2009, Dr Columbia returned to UNFPA as Regional Programme Advisor on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and later joined UNFPA Technical Division in New York.

Prior to joining UNFPA in Iraq, she was part of UNFPA Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia's Senior Management team.

She holds a medical degree specialized in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, a Master's degree in Public Administration and a Master's degree in Health Management.

Dr Columbia takes over from Dr Oluremi Sogunro, who serves as UNFPA Representative to Iraq from 1 October 2018 until 30 June 2020.

(Source: UNFPA)

Covid-19: Iraqi Govt announces New Measures

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi chaired on Monday a meeting in Baghdad of the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety.

At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister told the Committee that the coronavirus pandemic challenge facing Iraq is unprecedented, and that this challenge has been exacerbated by cumulative past administrative failures.

Following discussions, the Committee decided to:

  • Provide the necessary additional funding, through inter-government fiscal transfer arrangements, to the Ministry of Health
  • Direct state-owned profitable and self-financing enterprises to support the Ministry of Health, and for the extra funds to be used by the provincial health authorities for the direct purchase of medicine and medical supplies
  • Permit the Ministry of Health to recruit additional medical staff, both on continuing and short term contracts, and to fund their salaries through inter-government fiscal transfer arrangements
  • Direct the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers to prepare a draft law to grant medical and health professionals who have died as a result of their work combatting Covid-19 a pension equal to their last salary
  • Allow a number of  accredited private laboratories to conduct Covid-19 tests based on the strict criteria set by the Ministry of Health
  • Permit oxygen imports to enter Iraq via all border crossings, and to suspend payment by the Ministry of Health of the cost of oxygen supplies until its finances have recovered
  • Amend the partial curfew to start from 7 PM to 6 AM in line with the increase in daylight hours
  • Direct Baghdad Operations Command and the operations commands in the provinces to strictly enforce the curfew restrictions, and to hold them responsible for curfew violations
  • Direct Baghdad Municipality and the Directorate Civil Defence to disinfect areas in Baghdad which have a high rate of Covid-19 cases 
  • Exclude staff of the Arab Company for Antibiotic Industries and Supplies (AKAI) from curfew restrictions 
  • The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall coordinate with other countries which have announced that they are working on a potential treatments for Covid-19, and to negotiate with these countries to ensure that Iraq receives the necessary medicines and supplies  

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

Awareness is Key to Flattening COVID-19 Curve

Awareness is key to flattening the COVID-19 curve in Iraq

The World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Iraq, today began a major COVID-19 awareness-raising campaign targeting people living in high-risk and heavily affected areas in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The campaign will mobilize more than 250 community volunteers to deliver critical information, education and communications materials to approximately 6 million people living in 10 heavily populated districts for 4 weeks from 29 June to 28 July 2020.

"Health is the responsibility of all, and raising people's awareness is essential to containing the aggressive spread of COVID-19," said Dr Adham R. Ismail, WHO Representative in Iraq. "WHO, the Ministry of Health, partners and donors are working hand in hand to fight this pandemic, and until a vaccine is developed we have to unite our efforts to flatten the curve and keep our communities healthy and safe," he added.

The campaign will use mobile screens, booths and mobile medical clinics to display WHO educational videos and audio messages on a variety of protective and disinfection measures. State and private radio and TV channels will support the campaign with daily messages for the month. In addition personal protection packages containing masks, hand sanitizers, campaign slogan T-shirts and caps, COVID-19 awareness-raising flyers and other educational materials will be distributed to people in public places, main streets and bazaars.

Iraq recently reported a significant increase in the number of cases in Baghdad after lockdown measures were eased nationwide. Health authorities have tied the increase in numbers to increased testing capacity and improved active surveillance and weak adherence of people living in crowded districts to adopting protective measures as recommended by WHO and the Ministry of Health, such as practising good hand hygiene and social distancing and wearing masks.

The campaign includes support from key religious figures who have mobilized thousands of mosques in the capital to disseminate audio messages. "With no cure yet but prevention, we have to continue educating our people on the importance of following the health advice of WHO and the national health authorities to save our lives and protect our health workers," a cleric attending the campaign opening in Sadir City, where the vast slums of eastern Baghdad are located, commented.

"WHO is aware of the challenging impact of the lockdown and movement restrictions on the limited and daily income which families in many areas in Baghdad earn. However, the Organization urges all individuals to follow safety measures and wear masks in gatherings and public places, keep hands clean, and pratise social distancing to stop transmission of the virus," Dr Adham stressed.

WHO would like to extend its thanks to the Government of Kuwait and the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) for co-funding this campaign, and to WHO's implementing partner the United Iraqi Medical Society for supporting its implementation.

(Source: WHO)

New Hospital Opened in Basra

By John Lee.

Dar Al-Shifa Hospital has been opened in Al-Zubair district in Basra Province.

The hospital, a private-sector investment project which created 100 new jobs and cost $24 million, has a capacity of 60 beds, five operating theatres, an ophthalmology centre, a dental clinic, a maternity ward, an emergency department, laboratories and a pharmacy.

The Iraqi Government said it encourages private investment in Iraq's health infrastructure as part of its strategy to build a modern and accessible healthcare system.

(Source: Iraqi Government)

Video: Coronavirus Threatens Herders in Iraq’s Marshes

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting a community in Iraq's historic marshes.

For years, people there have relied on the wetlands for herding water buffaloes.

But the pandemic is now threatening their livelihood.

Al Jazeera's Katia Lopez-Hodoyan reports: