UNHCR Welcomes Japan’s contribution to COVID-19 Responses in Iraq

UNHCR welcomes the Government of Japan's contribution towards COVID-19 responses in Iraq

UNHCR welcomes the new contribution of USD 1.5 Million from the Government of Japan towards the response to COVID-19 for internally displaced persons, returnees and refugees in Iraq.

The new funding comes at a critical time when many communities, especially the most vulnerable, have been affected due to COVID-19 restrictions. This funding is supporting timely awareness-raising campaigns on the transmission and prevention of COVID-19 in addressing the needs of vulnerable displaced families, as well as ensuring access to basic hygiene items and protective gear for medical staff in primary health centres and authorities at border points.

Also, through this generous contribution UNHCR is supporting the Directorate of Health in Duhok and Erbil governorates to provide training on case definition and detection and management of suspected cases of COVID-19.

The Ambassador of Japan to Iraq, His Excellency Mr. HASHIMOTO Naofumi (pictured) stated "Given that COVID-19 is raging across the world, it is crucial for the international community to make concerted efforts, and I hope that the Japan's assistance through UNHCR would help prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Iraq."

He added "Under such challenging circumstances, I wish to engage in and strengthen a close cooperation with the new Government of Iraq in a wide range of issues".

The UNHCR Acting Representative in Iraq, Ms. Philippa Candler, commented, "during this global crisis, we have been all affected. The effect on vulnerable communities is even more acute. This generous and timely contribution will assist in our efforts in the response of COVID-19. Ensuring the health of communities is part and parcel of protection."

In response to the current situation, UNHCR has established procedures to continue providing services and maintain presence in the field. Under the current context, most basic services continue to function in camps and in areas with a high density of displaced populations. UNHCR also adapted its work modalities to ensure assistance continues to be delivered remotely including legal counselling, protection monitoring among other activities while respecting social distancing.

In response to the COVID-19 global humanitarian appeal, Japan has generously donated USD 23.9 million to urgently assist displaced communities around the world.

The Government of Japan has been one of UNHCR's largest donors and supporters of many years.

(Source: UN)

Iraq Considers Reopening Cement Plants

The Higher Committee for Health and National Safety held a meeting in Baghdad on Monday via video conferencing under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi.

The Committee reviewed and evaluated current measures to combat Covid-19 and received briefings from the Ministry of Health, specialists and officials from relevant ministries.

The Prime Minister commended the high degree of coordination between relevant government departments and the crisis cells across the country, which he said contributed to enabling Iraq to make progress in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

'Odd-even' rule for vehicles:

The Higher Committee decided that, based on even and odd numbered license plates, vehicles will be allowed on roads and public highways on alternate days. This measure comes into force on Tuesday 05 May 2020.

Helping families to return home:

The Higher Committee discussed how to assist families who, because of curfew and restrictions on movements, have been unable to travel between Iraqi provinces to return to their home.

The Committee said it is considering easing some restrictions for one day only to enable these families to return to their home towns, adding that it will make an announcement on this issue soon.

Restarting Iraq's cement plants:

The Higher Committee also discussed plans to restart Iraq's cement manufacturing plants to meet the needs of the local market and to maintain price stability.

Stay at home:

The Higher Committee called on all Iraqis to continue to stay at home, to go out only when absolutely necessary, and to comply with physical distancing rules.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

The Makerspaces Responding To Coronavirus in Iraq

By Fatimah Oleiwi, for Iraqi Innovators. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

People face many situations in life. Some are positive and bring us joy, whilst others carry challenges that make us realise things we did not before.

Some situations can be more difficult to accept than others. However, the perceived difficulty of any situation depends on that person's personal experiences and outlook.

Though some may find quarantine to be extremely tough, others may be enjoying the time they have at home.

Coronavirus in Iraq and across the world has given us a collective experience that will make us rethink our approach to difficult situations and how we must adjust.

Click here to download the full report

(Source: Iraqi Innovators)

COVID-19 risks Deepening Mental Health Crisis for Yazidis

By Kate Denereaz, for AMAR International Charitable Foundation.

Yazidis displaced in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. They also face a mental health crisis that the pandemic threatens to make worse.

Zaid Hamu, 31, has just heard the news that a resident of Darashakran camp in Erbil has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The case, reported on April 27th, is the first in Iraq's camps for refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs). Zaid lives in Khanke camp with 22 members of his family. "People are terrified," he says. "They are praying to god to protect them."

In Iraq, 250,000 Yazidis are unable to return home to Sinjar almost six years after ISIS invaded the district and murdered, kidnapped and enslaved thousands of the religious minority, acts recognised by the UN as genocide. Most, like Zaid and his family, live in canvas shelters in large IDP camps.

Dr Nezar Ismet Taib is the Director General of Health in Duhok Governorate, which hosts 22 of the Kurdistan Region's 38 camps, including Khanke. "People living in camps are among the most vulnerable groups to COVID-19," he says. "They have big families living in very crowded shelters, poor sanitation, lack of awareness and many are working outside the camps. This makes it very difficult to protect them unless severe restrictions on movement are imposed."

The AMAR Foundation runs healthcare clinics in two of the camps, Khanke and Essyan, each with a population of around 15,000. Teams are working hard to prevent an outbreak, making home visits and distributing leaflets and posters on the importance of hand washing and other protective measures.

A full lockdown in camps has been eased in recent days, but restrictions on movement are still in place. Initially, people could leave and re-enter camps only in an emergency, which restricted residents' ability to earn. The authorities face an exceptionally difficult balancing act. For Zaid in Khanke, though, the relaxing of restrictions has left him and his family feeling exposed.

Zaid and his family outside their home in Khanke camp, April 2020

Mental health crisis could get worse

When ISIS attacked Sinjar in 2014, they killed around 5,000 Yazidis and abducted 7,000 more, most of them women and girls who were forced into sexual slavery. Thousands of children were also kidnapped. Many remain missing.

No Yazidi has been untouched by this. Those who have returned from captivity have acute, complex mental health needs requiring long-term psychiatric and psychological care that stretched health authorities struggle to provide. Mental health care capacity in Iraq is exceptionally limited. According to a study by the Enabling Peace in Iraq Centre, in 2017 there were only 80 working psychologists for the whole of Iraq.

The provision of psychosocial support services, which attempt to make up some of these gaps, has already been affected by restrictions on movement imposed as a result of the virus. According to the International Organization for Migration, 45% of these are currently closed in Iraq.

Psychiatrist Dr Adnan Asaad Taher leads AMAR's mental health programme in Essyan camp. He says that the team have had to scale back home visits, but psychotherapy sessions for the most severe cases continue.

"Residents of these camps have already witnessed large-scale trauma; the COVID-19 pandemic poses another potential trauma for many. With the spread of false information on social media, camp residents are faced with uncertainty," Dr Adnan says. "They also face isolation and fear falling ill and losing loved ones to COVID-19."

Dr Adnan Asaad Taher, who leads AMAR's mental health programme in Essyan

 

Dr Nezar, himself a qualified psychiatrist who treated the first Yazidi women and girls to escape from ISIS, is also concerned. "In our last mental health working group, many of our partners reported an increased number of suicides and other serious mental health problems among IDPs."

He also believes that in the longer term "there will be a negative impact on general health and mental health services for victims of ISIS, especially ISIS victims of rape, who need more consistent and long-term mental health care."

The diversion of healthcare resources to fight the virus and the impact the pandemic is having on the already struggling Iraqi economy are likely to limit the ability of the authorities to scale up mental health treatment. AMAR's programme in Essyan will continue, but thousands more Yazidis need access to this kind of psychological support.

Displacement will last for many more years

For most Yazidis there is little prospect of a life beyond the camps. Although some, like Zaid, dream of a return to Sinjar and the "simple, happy life" they had before ISIS, the region's disputed status and the presence of various armed factions make it too unsafe and have hindered reconstruction efforts. With authorities now preoccupied with the pandemic and its economic consequences, the situation is unlikely to improve.

It is therefore vital that, as countries look to battle their own internal crises, the international community does not forget the Yazidi people recovering from genocide and facing this pandemic in ever more intractable displacement.

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(Source: AMAR)

Iraq’s Health System meets Challenge of Coronavirus

By Lujain Elbaldawi for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq's health system meets the challenge of coronavirus

Iraq is preparing to ease its confinement measures as the number of COVID-19 infections in the country lessens, despite challenges to the health system and measures relating to the diagnosis, quarantine, treatment, and body disposal.

Click here to read the full story.

Siemens and Partners Inaugurate Health Clinic in Baiji

Siemens, Lions and their partners inaugurate the rehabilitated health clinic in Baiji, Iraq

  • Al-Tawheed Center in Salah ad-Din Province was renovated by Iraq's Ministry of Health
  • Siemens donated advanced medical and power equipment to NGO Lions Foundation Germany to support the rehabilitation of the clinic
  • Clinic is open to the public and has the capacity to treat up to 15,000 patients a year

As the world continues to grapple with a global pandemic, Siemens and Siemens Healthineers, the Iraqi Ministry of Health, the Office of the Governor and the Directorate of Health in Salah ad-Din Province, and the German NGO Stiftung der Deutschen Lions (Lions Foundation Germany) inaugurated the reopening of a health clinic in Baiji, Iraq.

Iraq's Ministry of Health has repaired Al-Tawheed Center, which was damaged by Islamic State militants, and the clinic is fully renovated and equipped to provide much-needed medical care to residents of the province, approximately 200km north of Baghdad.

Siemens donated equipment including a digital x-ray, a dental treatment center, state-of-the-art laboratory equipment including a hematology blood analyzer, a power transformer and other devices to Lions Foundation Germany, which carried out the rehabilitation in cooperation with Lions Club Amman Philadelphia of Jordan. The center started accepting patients earlier this year and has the capacity to treat about 15,000 people a year.

Musab Alkateeb, CEO, Siemens in Iraq:

"Siemens has a long relationship with the city of Baiji and its people, and this clinic is a testament to our focus on delivering, together with our Iraqi and international partners, significant improvements to the country's critical infrastructure, from reliable electric power to high-quality healthcare."

After the arrival and installation of the donated equipment at PHC Baiji last year, Siemens provided training to clinic staff to use the state-of-the-art medical equipment and supporting systems. Lions will monitor usage over the next three years.

Dr. Wolf-Rüdiger Reinicke, Past Council Chair of Lions Germany, said:

"This health clinic demonstrates our commitment to the Iraqi people, and we are proud of our partnership with the Lions from Amman Philadelphia, Iraq's Ministry of Health and Siemens that helped return this important facility to the community. We were encouraged that the smart clinic was completed on schedule, and we are devoted to our role in helping it run smoothly and providing the best services possible to all residents in the area."

Siemens has been working in Baiji for almost 20 years, since the company delivered power generation turbines that helped run the country's biggest refinery, a concrete plant and thousands of homes in the province.

That power plant was also damaged, and in September, Siemens and Orascom Construction signed an agreement with Iraq's Ministry of Electricity to rebuild Baiji 1 and Baiji 2 plants in northern Iraq.

The facilities will have a combined generation capacity of 1.6 gigawatts when completed and are a major step in Siemens roadmap for rebuilding Iraq's power sector that has already added more than 700 megawatts to Iraq's grid.

(Source: Siemens)

Iraq Relaxes Coronavirus Restrictions ahead of Ramadan

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

Iraq relaxes coronavirus restrictions ahead of Ramadan

Iraq has scaled back some of its anti-coronavirus measures ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan, allowing certain businesses to reopen, the government said.

A statement announced shops and factories can resume work during non-curfew hours, and exemptions for certain businesses, including bakeries and pharmacies, will be maintained. Schools, malls, mosques and restaurants remain closed.

Government offices can resume work, but staffing cannot exceed 25% of the workforce, the statement said.

Click here to read the full article.

Video: Volunteers step up efforts to Feed the Poor

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

Poverty is on the rise in Iraq as more cases of COVID-19 are reported.

Daily wage earners are being forced to stay at home because of the lockdown there.

Volunteers are helping some of the millions struggling without an income.

Al Jazeera's Simona Foltyn reports from Baghdad:

Iraq announces Changes to Curfew, Other Restrictions

By John Lee.

Iraq's Higher Committee for Health and National Safety held a meeting in Baghdad on Sunday via video conferencing under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi.

The Committee decided the following:

  • From 21/04 until 22/05, the curfew hours will be between 7 PM and 6 AM Sunday-Thursday, and for 24 hours Friday- Saturday
  • Current exemptions for certain business categories including bakeries and pharmacies, and key workers such as health teams and security forces, will be maintained
  • Restrictions on public gatherings and social distancing rules remain in place
  • Schools, universities, educational institution, sport venues, malls, wedding halls, mosques and places of worship will remain closed
  • Restaurants and  cafes will remain closed, but will be permitted to provide delivery services
  • Shops and factories can resume work but only outside curfew hours
  • Government departments are permitted to resume working, but with minimum staffing which must not exceed 25% of the workforce
  • Taxis can operate, but large public transport vehicles are only permitted to carry four passengers at any one time
  • International travel in and out of Iraq remains suspended as is travel between Iraqi provinces
  • The wearing of face masks outside the home becomes compulsory, and those who do not comply with the rule will face legal action

Supporting Iraq's health workers

The Committee discussed measures to support Iraqi frontline health workers and agreed to:

  • Make a monthly bonus payment to frontline health teams who are caring for Covid-19 patients
  • Allocate, free of charge, a plot of land to all health workers who are caring for Covid-19 patients
  • Request the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers to prepare a draft law to double the period of service of frontline health staff during the current emergency for the purpose of calculating future pensions; the law will also seek to extend the retirement age for doctors

The Committee urged all Iraqis to continue to follow health instructions and guidelines, and to only leave home when it is absolutely necessary.

For the latest Covid-19 updates, please visit:   https://www.facebook.com/MOH.GOV.IQ/

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

Medical Aid Arrives in Baghdad from China

By John Lee.

A third batch of medical aid from China arrived on Monday in Baghdad.

It includes medical protective equipment such as protective clothing, masks and gloves.

(Sources: Ministry for Health, CGTN)