More Lebanese Doctors leave for Iraq

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

More Lebanese doctors leave for Iraq

As Lebanon is sinking deeper into an unprecedented financial and political crisis, many medical doctors are increasingly packing their bags and leaving for the Gulf or Europe, and more recently for Iraq.

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Australia provides $1.6m for Women in Iraq

Australia provides AUD 2 million to UNFPA-women and girls interventions in Iraq

The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) renewed its commitment to reproductive health and rights of women and girls, and prevention and response to gender-based violence in humanitarian settings. The project will support the work carried out by UNFPA with a AUD 2 million [USD 1.6 million] contribution.

Women and girls, including individuals with disabilities and survivors of gender-based violence; and men and boys, as allies of the prevention and response to gender-based issues, will benefit from awareness and integrated gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health services.

Ms Paula Ganly (pictured), the Australian Ambassador to Iraq, said:

"Australia is pleased to continue our important partnership with UNFPA Iraq ... Providing assistance for reproductive health needs and rights of women and girls and protection from gender-based violence is essential to ensuring their full and equal participation in society."

Acknowledging the new funding, Dr Rita Columbia, UNFPA Representative to Iraq, said:

"I extend our sincere gratitude to the longstanding partnership with DFAT. This generous contribution will help women and girls to have easier access to quality gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health services, especially to women and girls with disabilities.

"Today, due to the uncertainty environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to work hand-in-hand to help the most vulnerable people stay healthy and live in a violence-free environment."

Australia is a strong advocate for women and girls' protection and reproductive rights. Since 2014, Australia has contributed AUD 18.2 million to UNFPA programming in Iraq, helping refugees, internally displaced people, people with disabilities, host communities and returnees.

(Source: UN)

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ICRC issues Annual Report on Iraq

While it continued to respond to needs generated by decades of conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2020 dedicated much of its work and efforts to help prevent or slow down the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate other risks arising from it.

It expanded its support to hospitals, primary health centers, physical rehabilitation centers, and places of detention where the ICRC has privileged access and could contribute to better protect detainees and prison staff from the disease.

Moreover, the ICRC strived to boost the capacity of vulnerable families to face the economic strain resulting from the pandemic, especially women-headed households, people with disabilities, Internally Displaced People (IDPs), and returnees, frequently in collaboration with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS). And in so doing, precautionary measures were duly integrated into our modus operandi, to protect both those we endeavor to support and our own staff.

The ICRC operates through its delegation in Baghdad and its offices located in Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Najaf, Ramadi, Basra, Khanaqin, Sulaymaniyah, and Dohuk.

Click here to download the full report.

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Covid-19: Govt amends Curfew, Announces New Measures

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Government has issued the following announcement regarding measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  1. A partial curfew will be implemented during the blessed month of Ramadan from 20:00 to 05:00 the following morning for the first three weeks of Ramadan, while allowing restaurants to provide delivery service.
  2. A full curfew on Fridays and Saturdays every week. Exempt are pharmacies, food marts, fruit and vegetable stands, and bakeries, and allowing them to carry out their work until 19:00, and allowing restaurants to provide delivery service.
  3. Enforcing measures by health control teams and the security forces, and holding violators accountable.
  4. Directing health departments to ask their employees in hospitals and health centres to provide proof that employees are Covid-19 negative through PCR examination results, with tests being conducted within a week or providing proof of their inoculation with a Covid-19 vaccine, to allow them to work starting 1 May 2021. Directors of health institutions will be held legally responsible for implementing and following up these procedures.
  5. Conducting PCR tests on all patients and their caregivers if they are unable to provide a certificate of  inoculation against Covid-19.
  6. Starting 1 May 2021, those employed in retail stores, restaurants, malls, factories and other places of business subject to health control measures will require inoculation. Health permits for the aforementioned businesses will be conditional on providing proof of inoculation of all staff. Following this date, businessowners will be held accountable and subject to fines if any employee cannot provide evidence that:
    • The employee has been inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine.
    • Those who are unable to be inoculated such as pregnant women and other contraindications, or those who can provide evidence that they contracted Covid-19 during the last three months, by providing a positive PCR test or CT-scan will need to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within the most recent week.
    • Ministry of Health monitoring authorities, with the support of the security forces, must hold accountable violators of these health measure in accordance with the Public Health Law and the decisions of the Higher Committee for Heath and National Safety.
  1. Starting 1 May 2021 staff working in pharmacies, drug stores, laboratories and private clinics, including radiology clinics, and private hospitals will not be allowed to work if:
    • They cannot provide evidence that they are Covid-19 negative through a negative PCR test conducted within the most recent week.
    • There cannot provide evidence of being inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine.
    • Ministry of Health inspectors and the relevant associations (Doctors' Syndicate, Dentists' Syndicate, Pharmacists' Syndicate) will enforce the implementation of the above and hold violators accountable and closing the practice of violators in accordance with the laws and regulations in force.
  1. Citizens will not be allowed entrance into ministries and government agencies of a crowded nature  (pension department, traffic directorates, passport directorates, civil and national status directorates, etc.), as well as not allowing employees of the aforementioned to work starting from 20 April 2021, in case of:
    • They cannot provide evidence that they are Covid-19 negative through a negative PCR test conducted within the most recent week.
    • There cannot provide evidence of being inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine.
    • All government entities not associated with a ministry and all governorates are responsible for implementing the procedures and following up with their employees and considering any violating employee in absent without payment.
  1. Sports clubs will not allow the presence of any of the players unless they present their inoculation card for the Covid-19 vaccine.
  2. The Ministries of Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Health will coordinate regarding conducting campaigns to vaccinate the covered groups of faculty and students.
  3. The Hajj and Umrah Authority will not register any of the citizens wishing to perform the Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages unless it is proven that s/he has obtained the inoculation card with the Covid-19 vaccine.
  4. Urging all government entities not associated with a ministry and all governorates to direct their employees to be inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine.
  5. Calling upon community leaders, students of religious sciences, tribal sheikhs, intellectuals, activists and media professionals to take their national and moral responsibility in raising awareness and not to stand watching in light of the continuing dangerous epidemiological situation.
  6. Calling upon all media outlets, governmental and private institutions, and civil society organisations to make efforts to urge citizens to adhere to preventive measures, and to encourage citizens to take the vaccine in health centres and accredited hospitals.
  7. Putting into force the application of the provisions of Article 240 of Penal Code No. 111 of 1969, as amended, related to violating orders and regulations, and authorizing the security forces in support of health teams and their application against citizens in violation in the event that they fail to pay fines.
  8. The Joint Operations Command, Baghdad Operations Command, the Ministry of Interior, and the National Security Agency will continue to support health teams in their inspections and follow-up on the implementation of preventive measures in public places, restaurants, shopping malls, cafes and others during and outside of official working hours.
  9. Reducing working hours in public departments and institutions by one hour during the holy month of Ramadan.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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Iraqi Kurdistan sticks with AstraZeneca Vaccine

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

Iraq's Kurdistan region sticks with AstraZeneca vaccine, reports no issues

Kurdish authorities say they will continue administering the vaccine following the European Union's conclusion that blood clots should be listed among "rare side effects" of the British-Swedish vaccine.

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Japan Invests Additional $600k for Life-Saving Services in Iraq

Japan Invests Additional US$ 607,500 for Life-Saving Maternal and Protection Services

The Government of Japan approved an additional US$607,500 to support the continuation of reproductive health and gender-based violence-related services provided by UNFPA.

In 2020, Japan contributed US$ 1.3 Million to increase the utilisation, access, and continuation of life-saving, survivor-centred, multi-sectoral gender-based violence and sexual reproductive health (SRH) services in Baghdad, Salahuddin, Anbar, and Nineveh governorates of Iraq.

The new funding will ensure that people in need, particularly returnees in the targeted areas, receive comprehensive reproductive health and gender-based violence services while supporting the prevention of COVID-19 through raising awareness of the most vulnerable communities including the people with disabilities and through the provision of Personal Protection Equipment to services providers.

His Excellency Mr Suzuki Kotaro (pictured), Ambassador of Japan to Iraq, stated: "Japan has recently decided to provide a new assistance package for Iraq amounting over US$50 million including this project as assistance for women and girls."

"With this package, the total amount of Japan's assistance to the people affected by the crisis reaches US$590 million since 2014. I hope that the assistance from the Government and people of Japan will help ensure the protection of women and girls among internally displaced persons, returnee and host community", he added.

"The complexity of challenges faced by the people of Iraq, particularly women and girls, has grown due to COVID-19. The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities and exposing gaps in social systems. UNFPA strives to ensure that vulnerable women and girls receive a comprehensive package of services, a continuum of care, as well as timely referrals," said Dr Rita Columbia, UNFPA Representative to Iraq.

Japan has been a UNFPA strategic partner with contributions amounting to a total of US$12,459,585 over the last six years ensuring most vulnerable women and girls affected by the crisis across Iraq have access to health and protection services.

UNFPA is thankful for the Government of Japan for their commitment to the reproductive rights of women and girls and ending gender-based violence.

(Source: UN)

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COVID-19: Iraqi Kurdistan reinstates Travel Ban

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

Iraqi Kurdistan reinstates travel ban

Daily coronavirus cases are approaching historical highs in the autonomous part of northern Iraq as vaccination efforts proceed at a crawl.

The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq restricted domestic travel on Tuesday to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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Iraq to Buy More Pfizer Vaccine

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Cabinet held its weekly meeting on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

Following discussions, the Cabinet approved the purchase of an "additional quantity" of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 (coronavirus), but did not specify the amount.

As a result of the steady increase in the number of coronavirus infections, the Cabinet also authorised the Minister of Health to contract with retired doctors and specialists to fill the shortage in health institutions. They will be paid a monthly amount of 1 million Iraqi dinars.

It was also agreed to include foreign diplomats, and workers in international organizations and companies, in the vaccination program, "taking into account the principle of reciprocity".

(Source: Office of the Prime Minister)

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Iraq receives First Delivery of Vaccines through COVAX Facility

Iraq receives the first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility

Amid a global shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, Iraq has finally received 336 000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX Facility, a partnership co-led by Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi - The Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

The AstraZeneca vaccines, manufactured by SK-Bio Institute of South Korea, arrived on Thursday 25 March 2021, and were received at Baghdad International Airport by the Minister of Health, Iraq, His Excellency Dr Hassan Mohammed Al-Tamimi, accompanied by the teams of the MOH, WHO and UNICEF.

This is a historic step towards the global goal to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world and is part of a first allocation of vaccines to Iraq. Further consignments of 1.1 Million COVAX vaccine doses are planned for Iraq in the coming weeks and will continue to cover 20 per cent of the population before the end of 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic still has a long a way to run in Iraq and around the world, as intense transmission is ongoing and is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers. While the preventive measures can be effective in reducing transmission of the virus, their effectiveness depends on strict application by all citizens.

The arrival of the vaccines and the launch of a nationwide vaccination campaign will be a game changer in the battle against COVID-19. However only when more than 80% of the eligible population are reached, will a significant reduction in transmission be achieved.

His Excellency Dr Hassam Mohammed Al-Tamimi, Minister of Health, Iraq, said:

"Today, vaccines that were expected in the country since the last week of February have finally arrived. Although Iraq finalized all the requirements for the COVAX facility in time, delays in the global production and shortages of vaccines within the COVAX Facility delayed this shipment. The vaccines received today have recently received the Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization and will be a game changer in the response to COVID19 Pandemic in Iraq."

"The Ministry of health will immediately dispatch these vaccines to all departments of health in Baghdad, in all governorates and Kurdistan to be used for protecting people within the priority groups according to the national vaccine deployment plan and framework."

Dr Ahmed Zouiten, WHO Representative, Iraq, said:

"This is a historical landmark in the response to COVID-19 in Iraq, receiving and utilizing these vaccines is a step in the right direction in controlling the pandemic in Iraq. Indeed, these vaccines have proven to be very safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death."

"We wish to congratulate the Ministry of Health and the Government of Iraq for all the efforts deployed for the response to COVID19 in general, and for securing the arrival of these life-saving vaccines in the country. As more vaccines are receiving the WHO Emergency Use listing, and more doses of vaccines are manufactured globally, we will be looking forward to receiving more allocations and more vaccines from the COVAX facility in the coming weeks and months."

Mr. Paul Edwards, UNICEF's acting Representative to Iraq, said:

"UNICEF and WHO have been working with the Ministry of Health around the clock to make sure that Iraq has enough syringes, vaccination cards, and state-of-the-art cold chain facilities to store the vaccines safely, in anticipation of this day. We have also trained thousands of health workers in vaccination centers across Iraq.

"We have been waiting for this day for months. Vaccines are among the greatest advances of modern medicine. They are a protective shield, keeping families and communities safe."

While these vaccines are being rolled out, the Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF urge all people in Iraq to continue observing public health measures that are in place, such as wearing masks at all times, physical distancing, air ventilation, proper hand hygiene and avoiding congested gatherings and settings.

(Source: UN)

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