New Arrivals to Iraq must have COVID Vaccination Cert

By John Lee.

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

The committee decided that all arriving passengers, including Iraqi nationals, must hold a Covid-19 vaccination certificate.

It also decided to end the exemption for umrah pilgrims from the requirement to have a Covid-19 international vaccination certificate.

Travelers must also have had a negative PCR test within 72 hours before entering Iraq (excluding those who are unable to prove that for health reasons).

(Source: Iraqi Govt)

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KRG issues new COVID-19 regulations

The Kurdistan Region's High Committee for Combating COVID-19 met on Tuesday and issued the following directives as part of the Kurdistan Regional Government's efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic:

  1. The vaccination deadline for public service employees (civil and military) will be extended to 20 January 2022. Any employee who fails to adhere to the directives will face disciplinary measures according to general health laws.
  2. COVID-19 tests will be administered at border crossings to people entering the Kurdistan Region, including those with COVID-19 Vaccination Cards. Entrance will only be given to those who can provide a negative result from a valid COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of arrival.
  3. The Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs will issue special regulations regarding funerals in the Kurdistan Region, in coordination with relevant administrations.
  4. Tourist groups must provide negative results from a valid COVID-19 test within 48-hour of arrival or present valid Vaccination Cards.
  5. All citizens, regardless of their vaccination status, must wear a mask when indoors for any public space (e.g., Government offices, businesses, restaurants, banks, and others) and adhere to social distancing regulations.
  6. Starting 1 February 2022, entrance to public spaces (e.g., Government offices, stores, restaurants, malls, event halls, businesses, and others) will be denied to those who cannot produce a negative result from a valid test taken within the past 48 hours or a COVID-19 Vaccination Card.

(Source: KRG)

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Results of Iraq Women Integrated Social and Health Survey

Ministry of Planning, UNFPA launch results of the second Iraq Women Integrated Social and Health Survey

The Ministry of Planning, the Central Statistical Organization and UNFPA have launched the results of the second Iraq Women Integrated Social and Health (IWISH) survey, conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning at the Kurdistan Regional Government - Kurdistan Region Statistics Office and with funding from Sweden.

The survey addresses women issues throughout all ages and covers various sectors such as women empowerment, health, reproductive health, violence against women and other relevant social and health dimensions to establish a comprehensive database.

It offers integrated data that identifies the progress made and the gaps in the economic, social, and health situation of women in Iraq in comparison to the results of IWISH I, conducted ten years ago.

Speaking at the event, Dr Maher Johan, Deputy Minister of Planning, emphasised the importance of data and statistics in programming and policy development, reiteration the Ministry's determination to conduct the Population & Housing Census before the end of 2022:

"Evidence-based policies are the only way for us to achieve our commitments to the International Conference on Population & Development in Nairobi and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals".

Dr Rita Columbia, UNFPA Representative to Iraq, commented on the survey, saying:

"UNFPA will continue to provide technical assistance in collecting, analysing and using reliable population data to ensure girls and women's rights and needs are a priority for the Government of Iraq. The findings will enable the development of people-centred policies enabling women to have equal opportunities and exercise their reproductive rights".

Highlights of the IWISH results can be found through this link and presentation in Arabic.

(Source: UN)

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A Christmas Gift for Iraqi Children

A message from the Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF):

Dear friends of Iraqi children,

Need a holiday gift idea for family, friends, employees? Need to increase your year-end tax-deductible donations? We can help!

Make a gift in honor of someone special, and we will send you our two beautiful digital ICF Christmas cards, which you can share by email, or you can print out at home.

These cards are a special token for your gift, designed specially for ICF this year. Read more about our Christmas cards below, and please consider making a year-end contribution here:

Iraqi Children Foundation Special Christmas Cards for 2021:

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Half of Families in Drought-Affected Iraq need Assistance

One in two families in drought-affected Iraq need food assistance

The scale of suffering inflicted by drought on Iraq's populations this year is laid bare in new research by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

It shows that one in two families in drought-affected regions require food assistance because of drought, while one in five do not have sufficient food for everyone in the family.

Communities across Iraq have faced damaging losses to their crops, livestock, and income. Children are eating less, and farmers and displaced populations are hit hardest.

According to NRC's research, which surveyed 2,800 households in drought-affected areas across the country:

  • 37% of wheat farmers and 30% of barley farmers have suffered crop failure of at least 90% of expected harvest,
  • 37% percent of households have lost cattle, sheep or goats in the last six months, mainly due to insufficient water, inadequate feed or disease,
  • The average monthly income in six out of seven governorates surveyed has dropped lower than the monthly survival threshold.[i]

Samira*, 46, has returned from displacement to Mosul to farm her land with two of her five children, but has already seen reductions in produce. "Our production has decreased due to water shortage recently, which also led to a decrease in our income... I can't afford the necessary food for my family so I borrow money from my relatives or buy food on credit," she told NRC.

Over the past few years, drought conditions, rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall have reflected the growing threat of climate change in the country. Water flow from upstream countries has also receded.

"Our harvest has dropped due to drought. Our land was thriving but now it is losing its value day after day and no one seems to care about what farmers are facing. Our land used to produce 20 tonnes each season, now it's no more than 10 or 11 tonnes," said Osama, a 27-year-old farmer from Hawija.

Such extreme circumstances have forced people to leave their home, compounding the displacement crisis in Iraq. Of those surveyed, 1 in 15 households told NRC that a family member had migrated in the last 30 days in search of work and income. Many of those had been in displacement at least once before, or had just returned home. Young people are particularly vulnerable as our research shows that 45% of people aged 15-24 had left their farming communities to find a job in towns and cities, while 38% have lost a job.

The outlook for 2022 is worrying, with continued water shortages and drought conditions likely to devastate the coming farming season. This may increase families' reliance on purchased water as well as poor hygiene practices, which could lead to disease outbreaks. There are signs of waves of displacement already taking place amid water scarcity, income losses, and rising food prices within farming communities.

"Families are telling us they have to borrow money to eat amid soaring prices and dwindling savings. They say their only source of living is vanishing in front of their eyes. Their lands are drying up and there is nothing they can do about it. This is all rooted in a water shortage crisis," said Maithree Abeyrathna, NRC's Head of Programmes in Iraq.

"We want to see solid water management plans to support communities badly hit and prevent future shocks, and these plans must be informed by farmers themselves."

NRC is also calling for international assistance to support livestock farmers and provide irrigation rehabilitation and drought tolerant seeds to reduce crop failure and crop losses. The Governments of Iraq and Kurdish Regional Government are encouraged to incorporate climate-mitigation strategies within national job creation efforts and advocate for water-sharing agreements to be upheld by upstream countries to prepare for the future effects of climate change in Iraq and continued drought conditions.

*Name changed to protect identities

Read the full report here.

Facts and figures:

  • NRC interviewed 2,806 households in Anbar, Basra, Duhok, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salah Al-Din, and Thi Qar governorates.
  • 300 internally displaced people and 1,500 returnees are among the respondents.
  • An additional survey was conducted with 100 food vendors and livestock traders, as well as 48 key informant interviews with community stakeholders and authorities, namely local authority representatives and employees of the Department of Agriculture or Department of Irrigation.
  • NRC is responding by providing drought-tolerant wheat seed varieties to more than 2,000 families in Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Anbar governorates to help with crop losses and crop failure amidst ongoing drought conditions. NRC has also supported more than 200 families with cash-based livestock feed in Sinjar and Baaj.

(Source: NRC)

(Photo Credit: Fared Baram/ NRC)

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How Corruption Erodes Healthcare in Iraq

By Mac Skelton and Abdulameer Mohsin Hussein, for the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.

Medicine Under Fire - How Corruption Erodes Healthcare in Iraq

The April and July 2021 hospital fires in Nasiriya and Baghdad left hundreds dead, adding insult to injury for a medical system that had already buckled under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. Why did these deadly fires transpire?

In the media, journalists highlighted a lengthy series of contributing factors leading to the tragedy, including flimsy and highly flammable construction materials, the explosion of mismanaged oxygen tanks, electrical shorts, and a lack of fire safety equipment.

Underlying these defects, ordinary Iraqis pointed to a deeper cause: pervasive corruption in the healthcare sector. Corruption, they alleged, explained why it was that an oil-rich country had not built and maintained safe and secure health facilities.

This preliminary paper looks to the tragic phenomenon of mass-casualty hospital fires in Iraq's COVID-19 wards to kickstart a larger policy-oriented conversation on the political drivers, key mechanisms, and human costs of corruption in the healthcare sector.

Broadly speaking, the research contends that political parties in control of the healthcare system compromise the safety and efficacy of both public and private hospitals by systematically evading quality controls and maximizing profits from medical supply chains at all costs.

Click here to download the full report.

(Source: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung)

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COVAX gives Iraq 2.9m Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine

Over 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Iraq this month, bringing the total vaccines procured for this country through the COVAX Facility to over 6 million doses.

Vaccination rates in Iraq have recently been a priority of national health authorities, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other health partners.

As of 1 November, the vaccination services were significantly expanded across the country where over 120 external vaccination sites were set out Iraq-wide to target 12 million people including children aged 12 years and above.

The local health authorities, WHO, UNICEF, and other health actors are collaborating on efforts to rapidly increase COVID-19 vaccination coverage by end of this year.

"The Ministry of Health of Iraq affirms the continuity of its efforts to provide vaccines procured through the COVAX Facility, of which Iraq is a partner, and to increase the number of  outlets to increase vaccine uptake in the shortest possible period. The Ministry would like to thank all our local and international partners for their efforts to make the vaccine accessible to all eligible recipients in Iraq," said Iraqi Acting Minister of Health and Environment, Hani Mousa Badr Al-Akabi.

UNICEF, WHO and the Iraqi Ministry of Health have, moreover, intensified the vaccine uptake activities in the past few months, by building the capacity of the local delivery system in Iraq and engaging communities in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout process. Collaborative work on the timely procurement and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines is also ongoing, and more doses of WHO-approved vaccines are expected to arrive over the next few months.

"We welcome the arrival of these vaccines as they arrive at a time where Iraq is stepping up efforts to contain the pandemic. This shipment is an important part of the continuing fight against COVID-19 in Iraq," said UNICEF Representative in Iraq, Sheema Sen Gupta.

"We cannot end the pandemic without the vaccine. However, vaccines alone do not replace the need for public health and social measures; they complement them," said Dr. Ahmed Zouiten, WHO Representative and Head of Mission in Iraq. "These recent vaccine shipments from COVAX are a step in the right direction in our joint quest to increase population immunity against COVID-19 in Iraq," Dr. Zouiten added.

The COVAX Facility is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide.

These deliveries of BioNTech Pfizer vaccines to Iraq are another milestone towards the COVAX Facility's goal on access. In addition to ensuring sufficient vaccine supply, partner agencies are working to ensure community awareness and provide support to vaccine administration by local health authorities. WHO, UNICEF, and other key health contributors are striving to end this pandemic in Iraq, and globally, as quickly as possible.

(Source: UN)

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Jordanian Firm to build Shatrah General Hospital

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Ministry of Health has signed the contract for the construction of the Shatrah General Hospital, in Dhi Qar governorate.

Acting Minister of Health, Dr. Hani Al-Uqabi, signed the contract with a Jordanian company to build the 200-bed facility, with fund including a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The hospital will serve a population of approximately 400,000 people.

(Source: General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers)

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