Covid-19: Iraq Extends Travel Ban

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

The Committee reviewed the latest Covid-19 related developments and decided to:

  • Update the travel ban to include travel to and from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, the UK, the United States and Zambia.
  • Prohibit the entry into Iraq of passengers from these countries, except for Iraqi nationals who will be subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine and a PCR test
  • Diplomats, official government delegations, international organizations, and experts working on service projects are exempt from the entry ban, provided they present a PCR test undertaken with 72 hours before their arrival and showing a negative result
  • Apply the principle of reciprocity to foreign airlines in imposing fees in relation to passenger PCR examinations
  • Public and private schools will continue to be allowed to open one day a week but must strictly apply preventive health measures
  • Direct all ministries and government departments to ensure that staff comply with preventative health measures, including the wearing of face masks. Members of the public not wearing face masks will not be allowed into government buildings
  • Shops, restaurants, malls, clubs, cafes, sport centres and event halls will face a fine not exceeding 5 million Iraqi dinars or a closure of no more than 90 days for violations of preventative health measures

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine to hit Iraq by February

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

First doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to hit Iraq by February

Iraq has pushed hard to be among the world's first countries to receive and distribute the vaccine after committing $170 million to COVAX, a global body to promote the vaccine.

Click here to read the full story.

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Iraq, Iran to launch Joint Investment Fund

By John Lee.

Iraq and Iran are to launch a fund to finance joint ventures between the two countries.

In his closing remarks to the Iran-Iraq Economic Conference on Wednesday, Iran's Minister of Energy Reza Ardakanian said

"The proposal to establish a joint venture fund to support the private sector of the two countries was approved."

The conference also discussed plans to establish a branch of Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iraq.

(Source: Iranian Ministry of Energy)

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Sweden, UNDP supporting Vulnerable Iraqis

Sweden reaffirms partnership with UNDP to support vulnerable Iraqis

The Government of Sweden, represented by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have signed a three-year, SEK 140 million* (US$ 16.4 million) agreement to further support vulnerable communities in Iraq.

Sweden's contribution will be channelled through UNDP's Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), which implements fast-track initiatives in areas liberated from ISIL. This is Sweden's sixth contribution to UNDP's FFS, bringing its total support to US$60.5 million, since the Facility was founded in 2015.

Based on stabilization priorities identified by national counterparts, FFS works to quickly restore essential public infrastructure, provides short-term employment opportunities, boost local livelihoods and economies, capacity support, and facilitates peaceful reconciliation in communities liberated from ISIL.

"This month marks three years since Iraq was officially liberated from ISIL. Yet 1.28 million Iraqis remain displaced. Our support to Iraqi authorities and citizens is critical to meet the needs of internally displaced persons returning to their areas of origin, especially considering the disproportionately negative impact of COVID-19 on these vulnerable groups," says the UNDP Resident Representative for Iraq, Zena Ali Ahmad.

"We are extremely grateful to Sweden for this critical additional contribution, and its unwavering support to stability in Iraq," adds Ms. Ali-Ahmad.

"Sweden remains committed to support the stabilization efforts in Iraq, especially in order to facilitate the return of remaining internally displaced persons. We emphasize the importance of gender equality, human rights and sustainable development in all of these programmes, including a conflict perspective promoting social cohesion in the communities," says the Head of the MENA Division at Sida, Eva Gibson Smedberg.

With the support of 28 partners, including Sweden, FFS has completed over 2,650 stabilization projects in Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah al-Din, benefitting nearly 11 million people.

(Source: UN)

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Combating Climate Change in Iraq

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Environment, and in cooperation with Missan Governorate launched the Haweizah population support project for combatting climate change. The project is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

The project was launched in Missan Governorate. Attendees included members from UNDP's Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS) as well as technical staff members of the Ministry of Health and Environment, representatives of the Governorate and local municipalities and Civil Society Organizations.

This two-year national project aims to support the marshland communities and enable them to withstand the risks associated with climate change that causes climatic disasters like recurrent droughts, which constitute a threat multiplier to the population. These droughts lead to a heightened poverty rates and migration due to water shortages and deteriorating environmental systems, which negatively affect peoples' livelihoods.

The undersecretary of technical affairs at the Ministry of Health and Environment, Dr. Jasim Hamadi said:

"The Ministry, in cooperation with UNDP Iraq has endeavored to provide all the technical requirements to prepare the draft project document, based on our belief in the importance of these marshlands.

"We affirm our full commitment to this project to ensure that it will be a starting point for a genuine effort to support the marshland areas and their local communities by adopting new projects that aim to develop the socio-economic conditions of these areas, which are considered a significant cultural and environmental heritage not only to Iraq but also to the world."

The project ensures innovative solutions for providing potable water to support the resettlement of the communities at Al-Huweizah marshlands. It also aims to promote livelihood diversification through development of eco-tourism, providing employment for women and youth, and building the capacities of the local staff and communities for operating water plants and activating women's awareness, in addition to providing eco-tourism education that helps attract investment in the Governorate.

Missan Governor, Mr. Ali Dawai said:

"We expect that this project will be very successful, given that it directly targets and supports the local communities of Haweizah marshlands and provides an adequate environment to combat climate change."

"The Missan Governorate is fully prepared to support and oversee this project to ensure its success, thanks to the services it will provide to the Marshland population."

In her speech at the project launching workshop, Resident Representative of the UNDP Iraq, Zeina Ali Ahmad said:

"The subject of climate change is highly significant at present, and needs an immediate response from all countries to combat the changes in climate that can aggravate the suffering of the population and increase internal displacement and emigration.

"This project has been adopted to upgrade adaptability in the area, and its goals have been drafted to meet the needs of the local population and reduce displacement, targeting in particular the most vulnerable groups."

The workshop was followed by an inaugural meeting of the project steering committee, through which the project action plan for 2021 has been presented. This action plan will be approved by the members after setting the priorities.

(Source: UN)

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Sweden Increases Funding to UNHCR in Iraq

Unearmarked funds from the Kingdom of Sweden help UNHCR meet the changing needs in Iraq

UNHCR welcomes the recent contribution of 9 million Swedish Krona (~ USD 1 million) towards UNHCR's protection and assistance programmes to support vulnerable displaced persons in Iraq.

This is in addition to the 10 million Swedish Krona (~USD 1.17 million) previously granted towards UNHCR operations in Iraq, bringing Sweden's total contribution in 2020 by the Kingdom of Sweden to 19 million Swedish Krona (~ USD 2.23 million).

Many communities include refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees, as well as host communities are struggling through a dire economic downturn. At a time when communities in Iraq were expecting stability and recovery, the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged and has further impacted vulnerable communities.

UNHCR and its partners moved promptly to adjust the response accordingly and ensure much needed humanitarian operations continued. This adjustment would not have been possible without the flexibility and generosity of donor countries, including the Kingdom of Sweden.

Flexible funding was vital again this month as UNHCR ramps up support to Iraqi returnees amid the large-scale closure of the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps.

Together with partners, UNHCR accelerated its programme to release seasonal cash assistance to help newly returning families meet their immediate needs in the coming winter months and provide legal assistance to families to obtain civil and property documentation.

Mr. Lars Ronnås, the Ambassador of Sweden to Iraq stated:

"Humanitarian needs increase in Iraq. Every woman, man, girl and boy living in a dire situation should be given a chance to improve their living conditions. Right now, UNHCR's efforts to save lives and alleviate suffering are highly valuable and important."

Philippa Candler, UNHCR's Representative, said:

"This generous and flexible contribution by the Kingdom of Sweden enables us to stand by vulnerable families when they need help the most, to provide them with the support and protection efficiently and in a timely manner."

Sweden is one of UNHCR's largest donors of unearmarked contributions. Such continued, unearmarked support from donors remains vital for millions of families as well as for stability and durable solutions in Iraq.

(Source: UN)

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COVID: Iraq Closes Land Borders, Restaurants

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 closes land borders, restaurants with new anti-virus measures

The Iraqi government announced a series of strict measures to combat COVID-19 on Tuesday.

All land border crossings, restaurants and malls will be closed for two weeks starting on Thursday, the federal government announced on Twitter.

Click here to read the full story.

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Saudi-Iraqi Business Forum Launched; New Projects Announced

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi received a delegation of Saudi officials and business people in Baghdad on Monday.

Among the visitors was the Saudi Minister of Commerce, Acting Minister of Media, and Chairman of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council, Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi.

The delegation included businessmen representing 22 Saudi companies.

During the meeting, they discussed issues of common interest between the two countries, and ways to support and enhance them in all fields.

The two sides also signed an agreement to establish a metal silo to store wheat in Al-Diwaniya province, and a hospital in Al-Saqlawiya, Anbar province.

(Source: SPA)

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Germany supporting Vulnerable Children in Iraq

UNICEF receives 26 million from Germany to support national systems and ensure vulnerable children in Iraq receive quality basic and social protection services in Iraq

The German Government, through its Development Bank, the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), has contributed 26 million Euros to UNICEF in order to help the agency in its ongoing efforts to assist the Government of Iraq in strengthening its systems and improve access to quality basic services and social protection for children and their families.

This latest amount brings the German Government's total contributions to UNICEF Iraq to a total of 159 million Euros since 2015.

Vulnerable children and their families in Iraq are disproportionately affected by the lack of safe water, education, and social protection. The needs of the poorest have become even more acute as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its secondary impacts, such as disruption in schools and health services, and rights violations, as well as rising poverty, all diminish the chance of vulnerable children to realize their basic rights to survive, be protected, and continue learning.

In light of the scale of the pandemic's effect particularly on children and their families, the German Government has reserved 6 million Euros exclusively for measures addressing COVID-19 related activities such as the Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) and the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC).

"This funding has come in at a critical time, when we should be doing all that we can to limit the effects of the pandemic on all children, especially the most vulnerable. Thanks to our German partner, we are able to scale up our efforts to support the Government of Iraq to strengthen national systems' ability to respond and provide better quality and coordination of the basic services that it provides, public social protection for children and their families, and help to train educators, counsellors and other professionals working with children," explained Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF's Representative in Iraq.

For his part, the German Ambassador to Iraq, His Excellency Dr Ole Diehl (pictured), emphasized that the international community can only win the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic by working together.

"Germany continues to support Iraq in its fight against COVID-19. This is why we have launched an extensive global COVID emergency program, under which also a sizeable COVID-19 response window is allocated for Iraq and our contribution assigned to this program respectively. Good health and sanitary infrastructure are paramount to contain the virus. More importantly, every one of us needs to take part in the fight against Corona by wearing masks, keeping up social distancing and observing rules of basic hygiene."

Since the pandemic broke, the number of children and adolescents who risk falling into poverty has doubled, from one out of five children and adolescents to over 2 out of every 5. Children and adolescents, who make-up more than half of the population in the country, are also the most at risk of experiencing poverty, service disruptions in critical basic services like primary health, water sanitation and hygiene, education and increase in rights violations.

"Investing in one's children is the best investment any nation can make. The Iraqi government needs our support to further develop its technical capacities, strengthen its systems, and deliver for its children. We are especially appreciative of the support of our German partner at this critical time when we are working with the Government to enhance its ability and systems to deliver better education, health services, water, sanitation and protection for every boy and girl in Iraq," added Ms. Lasseko.

There are 1.77 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and another 1.5 million who remain displaced and therefore exposed to higher risks of deprivation, violence and exploitation. The project which will be rolled out over 18 months, will target such populations.

The project focuses on long-term sustainability by strengthening national systems and capacities to provide integrated access to safe water, education and health services, protection, and social assistance, with the goal of enabling children to overcome poverty, practice their rights and fulfil their potential.

It will be implemented at the Federal level and in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, in partnership with the Ministries of Labour and Social Affairs, the Education, the Directorates of Education at sub-national levels, and national and international Civil Society Organisations.

(Source: UN)

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1.9m Iraqi Children to be Vaccinated against Polio

More than 1.9 million Iraqi children in high risk governorates to be vaccinated against polio

On Sunday, Iraqi health authorities, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF began a mass polio vaccination campaign targeting more than 1.9 million children under the age of five.

The campaign will be conducted in locations across Iraq, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which, like previous disease outbreaks and humanitarian emergencies has disrupted access to essential health services, including routine immunization. The campaign is urgent because even brief interruptions of vaccination programmes leave cohorts of infants unprotected, making outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, like polio and measles more likely.

"The complexity of ensuring that children in Iraq remain safe from vaccine-preventable diseases while at the same time responding to COVID-19 is enormous, but we must continue to do all that we can to protect children against avoidable suffering and death caused by vaccine-preventable disease. WHO and its partners are working past the COVID-19 challenges by ensuring continuity of vaccination efforts against childhood threats such as polio" said Dr Adham Ismail, WHO Representative for Iraq.

"The Oral polio vaccine will be safely delivered both door to door and at fixed points in health facilities to ensure that we reach all children under the age of five regardless of their previous vaccination status. We want to make sure that no no child is left behind, no matter where they are," added Dr Adham.

WHO supported the development of micro plans to guide vaccination teams day by day, mobilized and trained 862 supervisors and more than 4294 vaccinators to carry out the campaign. In addition, it is also paying all the vaccination costs including transportation and other incentives to ensure that all children are reached.

In order to ensure that the appropriate precautions are taken to maintain COVID-19 infection prevention and control (IPC) during the campaign, UNICEF trained all vaccinators in IPC skills and equipped many of them with personal protective equipment in order to ensure their safety and the safety of the target communities.

In addition, UNICEF donated the entire stock of polio vaccines for the campaign and has provided the equipment needed to keep vaccine doses at the right temperature, thereby ensuring their effectiveness. It also developed educational materials such as informational videos and posters, to raise awareness about the importance of immunization and encourage caregivers to vaccinate children. In addition, UNICEF trained 400 community volunteers to raise awareness, track rumours, and counter misinformation with accurate information about the vaccine and its benefits.

"Along with our partners in government, we have a responsibility to make sure that communities are engaged, aware that vaccines are the most cost-effective and safe way of protecting children against many diseases, and that they are mobilized to participate in vaccine delivery programmes. Every child born has a right to a healthy life," explained Ms Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF's Representative in Iraq.

The five-day campaign will target children in 46 districts in sixteen governorates, including Baghdad (Baghdad-Resafa and Baghdad-Karkh), Babylon, Anbar, Dahuk, Erbil, Kerbala, Kirkuk Missan,Muthanna, Thi-Qar, Najaf, Ninewa, Salah Al-Din , Suleymaniya, Wassit and Basra. The locations were selected based on the health risks of children in each, polio surveillance indicators, children's immunisation profiles and existing gaps. Other factors considered included the population numbers, geography and environmental risks.

(Source: UN)

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