Iraq Bans Foreign Arbaeen Pilgrims over COVID-19 Fears

By John Lee.

Iraq's Higher Committee for Health and National Safety has decided to "ban the entry into Iraq of visitors  from all countries". The move is an attempt to combat the coronavirus (Covid-19).

This will create problems for religious pilgrims hoping to attend the Shi'ite Muslim gathering of Arbaeen, held in early October, which would normally bring millions of people to the holy city of Kerbala.

According to Iran's Tasnim news agency, Iraq's Ambassador to Iran, Nasir Abdul Muhsin, confirmed that no foreign pilgrim will be permitted to visit Iraq for this year's mourning rituals marking Arbaeen.

(Sources: Govt of Iraq, Tasnim)

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Iraqi Cabinet Approves Loans from Saudi Arabia

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Cabinet held its weekly meeting on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, at which it agreed to:

  • Authorise the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to coordinate with the Ministry of Youth and Sports on the implementation of the National Project for Youth Employment
  • Approve the financial conditions of two loans from the Saudi Fund for Development, and to authorise a representative of the Ministry of Finance to sign the necessary contracts for the construction of a silo for wheat storage in Diwaniyah and the Saqlawiya Hospital in Anbar
  • Authorise the Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority to negotiate and sign a draft air transport agreement between the Republic of Iraq and the Kingdom of Bahrain, as amended by the State Council

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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Iraq Relaxes Coronavirus Restrictions

By John Lee.

Iraq's Higher Committee for Health and National Safety held a meeting on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister paid tribute to Iraq's medical and nursing professionals for being on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his briefing to the Committee, the Minister of Heath said that Iraq has increased its Covid-19 testing capabilities.

According to a statement from the Government of Iraq, the Director of the World Health Organization's Office in Iraq, Dr. Adham Rashad Ismail, praised the Iraqi government's efforts in response to the pandemic, and the measures taken by the Ministry of Health which contributed to a death-rate from of 2.9% which is lower than the global rate.

Following discussions, the Committee decided to:

  • Permit youth, sports activities and events in various fields (without the presence of spectators) while adhering to preventive health measures from 12/09/2020
  • Allow restaurants, event halls and tourist facilities at five-star hotels to reopen,  provided that health preventive measures are put in place as directed by the Ministry of Health
  • Allow all land border crossings to reopen to facilitate trade exchange only
  • Allow ministries and official public institutions to work at 50% capacity
  • Permit the Independent High Electoral Commission to open registration centres to allow voters to register for the biometric voting cards
  • Exempt staff of the Independent High Electoral Commission from curfew regulations

The Committee urged all Iraqis to continue to remain vigilant and to follow the official guidance of the Ministry of Health including adhering to preventive health and social distancing measures.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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UNICEF aims to Train 30,000 Healthcare Workers

UNICEF aims to train 30,000 primary health care workers in Iraq in efforts to prevent and control Covid-19 infection

With numbers soaring since early June, as of the end of August Iraq has confirmed 231,177 cases of COVID-19 and 6959 deaths.

To stem the tide against the pandemic, UNICEF is supporting the training of an estimated 30,000 health care providers at the primary care level, with the aim of disseminating key information about COVID-19 infection, prevention and control, with a special focus on preventing infection among health providers.

Iraq is using a cascade approach for this massive exercise, with online training of 132 national officials from the Ministry of Health over four days in July, and over 580 personnel from the Primary Health Care departments at governorate- and district-level last week.

These subnational personnel will proceed to train primary care staff in person in coming weeks, thereby ensuring that their newly acquired knowledge is shared widely with other frontline health workers.

"Frontline health workers are the unsung heroes in Iraq's fight against COVID-19. Day after day, they continue to show up and provide critical services to those most in need, risking their lives," said Paula Bulancea, UNICEF's Deputy Representative in Iraq.

"This training will build on UNICEF's ongoing support to health workers and vulnerable communities in Iraq as we work together and with all of our partners in government, the World Health Organization, and in non-government organizations, to control this deadly virus," Dr. Bulancea added.

The cascade training will cover the needs of health workers providing immunization, maternal and neonatal care and nutrition services. It will also focus on water and sanitation in the primary health care setting in the context of COVID19.

"Simple acts such as washing your hands after seeing every patient, ensuring that you maintain social distancing with caregivers when vaccinating a child, and wearing a mask at all times will go a long way in ensuring that the safety of healthcare workers isn't compromised on the job," remarked Dr. Bulancea.

In addition to training health workers, UNICEF has:

  • Reached over 14 million people with risk communication and awareness in online and off-line awareness raising campaigns.
  • Distributed approximately 11,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) to front line health workers in the most affected governorates.
  • Partnered with the University of Karbala to produce 14,500 bottles of locally made hand sanitizers and 10,000 large bottles of disinfectants to disinfect surfaces, in partnership with the Karbala
  • Directorate of Health. These products were distributed in healthcare centers in Karbala and Baghdad.
  • Launched a satellite TV education channel to support 1.5 million learners in Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

(Source: UN)

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Iraqi Govt needs more Female Voices to Fight the Pandemic

By Hanar Marouf, for the Atlantic Council. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq's government needs more female voices to fight the pandemic

Iraq is in a precarious condition. It has faced major challenges on multiple fronts, including political instability, a drop in oil prices, and the economic fallout amid the coronavirus outbreak.

While the government deliberates protection measures, the capacity of hospitals and staff remain limited.

The rampant spread of the virus, with an average of 3,000 daily infections, has only been exacerbated by a lack of concrete emergency plans. Up to mid-August, Iraq had 150,000 cases and 5,400 deaths.

Click here to read the full story.

US announces $204m Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq

On Wednesday in Washington, the United States announced nearly $204 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Iraq, Iraqi refugees in the region, and to generous communities hosting them.

This funding includes nearly $133 million from the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and more than $71 million from USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

This funding brings the total for the U.S. humanitarian response for Iraq to more than $706 million since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2019. In addition, the United States has provided $49.5 million in COVID assistance in Iraq and more than $22.7 million to date in Fiscal Year 2020 to assist over 244,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq.

This assistance will provide critical shelter, essential healthcare, emergency food assistance, and water, sanitation, and hygiene services across Iraq. It will also improve access to civil documentation and legal services, the capacity of health care facilities and increase access to education and livelihoods opportunities.

The United States remains the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance in Iraq and globally, in line with our National Security Strategy. We appreciate all donors who have stepped up and continue to encourage both traditional and new donors to help meet growing needs.

(Source: US State Dept)

Iraq again breaks daily COVID-19 record

By Omar al-Jaffal for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq again breaks daily COVID-19 record

Iraq broke its record for daily confirmed COVID-19 cases again on Friday.

There were 4,013 new cases on Aug. 14. The highest numbers were in the capital Baghdad, Erbil in the Kurdistan Region and Basra in the south, according to the Ministry of Health.

Click here to read the full story.

US continues to Support UNHCR in Iraq

United States of America continues its support to UNHCR critical work in Iraq

UNHCR welcomes the new contribution of USD 41.8 Million from the United States of America that aims at supporting the response for Internally Displaced Iraqis, the 2020/2021 Syria Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, refugees and asylum seekers as well as the response for COVID-19.

This brings the total US contribution to UNHCR Iraq over USD 107 Million this year. So far, the UNHCR operation in Iraq is 31% funded.

In Iraq today, there are still thousands of vulnerable displaced families that are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. With close to 1.4 million IDPs, 4.7 million returnees, and 286,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the needs are significant and ongoing support is needed to ensure a stable and peaceful recovery.

More so during the prevailing COVID-19 health crisis, which has significantly exacerbated the protection risks faced by vulnerable displaced families and has further hindered their access to basic goods, essential services, and livelihood opportunities.

This timely and generous donation from the United States of America will help UNHCR provide displaced families with the needed protection services, including child protection, prevention of sexual and gender-based violence and protection monitoring, as well as cash assistance to meet their basic needs.

The Chargé d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Steven Fagin, emphasized the United States is deeply committed to the welfare of displaced Iraqis, and to supporting UNHCR's work toward sustainable, voluntary, and safe returns, local integration, and other solutions.

He said the United States is dedicated to working with the new Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to ensure that all components of Iraqi society can thrive in their homeland, and that Syrian and other refugees and asylum seekers in Iraq receive the assistance they need. Supporting these populations and their communities is part of bolstering Iraq's stability and success.

UNHCR's Acting Representative Philippa Candler stated:

"With rising challenges, timely funds are needed to help support those displaced by conflict, refugees, asylum seekers and returnees. Donor support is much appreciated during these times, as not only do refugees and displaced persons face the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic but we fear the aftermath will continue to affect livelihood opportunities for the months and years to come.

"UNHCR will spare no effort to provide protection and other support to those in need as we work towards achieving durable solutions for those who are displaced. UNHCR appreciates the support from major donor countries such as the United States of America which makes this ongoing work possible".

The United States of America remains the biggest donor to UNHCR globally.

(Source: UNHCR)

Addressing Iraq’s Fragility crucial to Recovery from COVID

Addressing Iraq's fragility crucial to recovery from COVID-19 pandemic

Failure to address Iraq's multi-faceted fragility could lead to an increase in extreme poverty across the country, according to a new report released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq.

Impact of the Oil Crisis and Covid-19 on Iraq's Fragility explores the major dimensions of fragility - economic, environmental, political, societal, and security - and their impact on Iraq in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic and resulting oil crisis.

The paper is the first in a series of policy papers that UNDP will issue on the impact of COVID-19 on Iraq. It provides key recommendations to support the Government of Iraq, local development actors and the international community develop strategies that enable Iraq to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic.

"In fragile countries, social safety nets are weak and insufficiently address the basics needs of the most vulnerable groups in society. This ultimately results in deeper social inequalities," says Resident Representative of UNDP Iraq, Zena Ali Ahmad.

"For Iraq, decades of conflict have hampered the country's stability and stunted its prosperity. The onset of COVID-19 and the oil crisis exacerbated existing fragilities in the country.

"The different dimensions of fragility explored in this report emphasise that Iraq's fragility is not a result of one single event; it involves a number of intricate factors that have collectively impacted every aspect of the country's development, and these must be closely considered when charting the path to Iraq's recover from the pandemic.

"Tackling Iraq's fragility by addressing these main drivers is critical to achieving Agenda 2030 and getting Iraq back on a prosperous and tangible development trajectory. We hope this policy paper is a useful tool for partners to shape effective policies for post-COVID-19 recovery in the country," she adds.

The policy paper, which applies a multidimensional concept of fragility based on the methodology developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),  was developed in consultation with UN agencies in Iraq, notably the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN WOMEN), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

UNDP's upcoming policy papers will cover the themes of: social protection, macro-economic stability, social cohesion, and household vulnerability.

Impact of the Oil Crisis and Covid-19 on Iraq's Fragility is available on the UNDP Iraq website

(Source: UNDP)

Iraqi Govt Extends Curfew

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Government has said that it will extends the partial, nationwide curfew until 15th August, with a total curfew on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The move is an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

(Source: Govt of Iraq)