$100m to Support COVID-19 Vaccination in Iraq

By John Lee.

The World Bank has approved a new US$100 million project to scale up Iraq's health sector response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Iraq COVID-19 Vaccination Project will support the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations to priority population groups and strengthen the institutional systems needed to enable the safe and effective distribution and use of COVID-19 vaccine at scale.

It aims to help the country procure COVID-19 vaccines, improve its capacity to manage health care waste, and raise public awareness on the importance of vaccination against the virus.

The project builds on existing support the World Bank and other development partners have given the Government of Iraq for its COVID-19 response under the Iraq Recovery, Reform, and Reconstruction Fund (I3RF) and the Emergency Operation for Development Project.

Iraq has been one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, recording almost 2 million COVID-19 cases and more than 21,000 deaths to date.

The government began its COVID-19 vaccination campaign in March 2021 and has been able to increase coverage rapidly in the past month. More than 7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with about 11% of the population having received the first dose and 7% fully immunized with two doses.

A comprehensive, well-coordinated vaccination campaign is key to a country's future recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its economy and public health. The new project will play a critical role in ensuring affordable, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in Iraq, extending coverage to 3 million of the country's population.

"Improved access to vaccination is needed to limit the spread of the disease and lessen the burden on the already weak health system in Iraq," said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. "The new project will support Iraq in its acquisition and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, which are essential to protect lives, enable the country to reopen safely, and kickstart economic recovery."

The Iraq COVID-19 Vaccination Project falls under the COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Program (SPRP), using a Multiphase Programmatic Approach (MPA) that was approved by the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors in April 2020, as well as additional financing agreed to last October. It includes a I3RF grant for vaccine delivery.

The I3RF was founded in partnership with the Government of Iraq in 2018 and is funded by Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and Sweden. It provides a platform both for financing and strategic dialogue for development and reconstruction, with a strong focus on targeted national reforms and public and private investment in socio-economic recovery and reconstruction. The fund seeks to be a strategic platform for development coordination and dialogue, and it aims to support the climate change agenda of the country, gender equality, peace building, and citizen engagement.

World Bank financing will complement activities conducted by other development partners, filling in critical gaps to ensure the deployment of vaccine is successful. The World Bank is committed to continue supporting Iraq's efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the resilience of its health system to future shocks.

(Source: World Bank)

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Pressure to Open Borders for Pilgrims despite Pandemic

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

Iraq under pressure to open borders for Shiite pilgrims despite pandemic

While the Iraqi government attempts to prevent the spread of the delta variant from Iran, there is internal and external pressure to open its borders for Shiite pilgrims to visit the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

Click here to read the full article.

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Video: COVID and Security Concerns over Ashura in Iraq

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

Preparations are under way in Karbala to mark Ashoura, a Shia Muslim commemoration.

People have started heading to the city despite concerns about security and COVID-19.

Al Jazeera's Mahmoud Abdelwahed reports from Karbala:

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US Donates COVID-19 Vaccines to Iraq

The United States Donates More Than 500,000 COVID-19 Vaccines to Iraq

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew H. Tueller joined Iraqi Acting Minister of Health Hani al-Oqabi and other partners to receive the delivery of more than 500,000 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to the Iraqi Ministry of Health as part of the ongoing partnership of the United States with the people of Iraq.

The vaccines were delivered via COVAX in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The United States provided these 503,100 vaccine doses free of charge to Iraq in reflection of our commitment to our shared fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.  This commitment was one of several made during the most recent session of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue, held in Washington, D.C., July 23-26.

The United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has provided more than $60 million to Iraq to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The United States is proud to partner with the Iraqi people to help save lives and defeat COVID-19.  Together, we will continue to build a world that is safer and more secure against the threat of infectious disease," said Ambassador Tueller.

This delivery of vaccines helps fulfill the White House global vaccine sharing allocation plan, announced on June 3, 2021, that prioritized an allotment for Iraq.

As President Biden promised, the United States is sharing vaccines with Iraq and many other countries to save lives and lead the world in ending the pandemic.

These safe and effective vaccines are key to protecting Iraqi lives and boosting Iraqi economic recovery.

(Source: US Embassy)

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Iraq’s Kurdistan Region detects first case of Delta Variant

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's Kurdistan Region detects first case of Delta Variant

Several Middle Eastern governments have instituted measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 variants recently.

Click here to read the full article.

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Kurdistan 2020 Oil Business “Crashed due to COVID-19”

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has released its annual oil and gas audit report for 2020, which revealed several drops in production due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The region's total exported and consumed oil for the year stood at 165,942,861 barrels, about 5 million barrels less comparing to 2019.

The average price of oil dropped to $28.1 per barrel as global markets crashed during the second quarter, with the gross value of crude oil sold via pipelines standing at $4,443,842,235.

As of Q4 2020, $294,315,126 of KRG funds remained held in a bank account in Lebanon due to restrictions on transferring foreign currency outside the country.

The full 2020 audit report is available here:

https://gov.krd/english/information-and-services/open-data/deloitte-reports/deloitte-report-2020/

(Source: KRG)

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New COVID-19 Guidelines for Travelers by Iraqi Kurdistan

In accordance with the global response against COVID-19 and the cautious lifting of restrictions, the Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of Health has updated official guidelines for travel to the Kurdistan Region.

Taking into consideration the public interest and the government's ongoing efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, travelers entering the Kurdistan Region by land or air no longer have to undergo a COVID-19 test upon arrival if:

  1. They can produce an official negative COVID-19 test, taken within the last 48 hours prior to their arrival.
  2. They hold official proof of vaccination, confirming they have received both doses of immunization against COVID-19.

(Source: KRG)

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Addressing the Needs of Iraq’s Most Vulnerable

Addressing needs of Iraq's most vulnerable critical for inclusive and sustainable recovery from COVID-19, new UNDP reports say

Recovery strategies targeting Iraq's vulnerable populations - including women, youth and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) -  must be prioritized to ensure inclusive and sustainable recovery from COVID-19 in Iraq, according to two new complementary reports released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq in collaboration with the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Both reports emanate from a study that explores the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on socio-economic status and livelihoods at the household level, with a focus on its impact on vulnerable groups such as women, youth, children, persons with disabilities, and displaced communities. It compares urban and rural settings and considers impacts in both Federal Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Original data collected and presented in the first report, Findings of the Assessment of COVID-19's Socioeconomic Impact on Iraq's Vulnerable Populations forms the basis for the subsequent policy report: Impact of COVID-19 on Iraq's Vulnerable Populations. The latter examines policy implications of the data findings and argues that building an inclusive path forward will require establishing sustainable systems and structures, listening and responding to the voices of the vulnerable, and laying out realistic goals to enable attainment of the 2030 Agenda.

Key findings include:

  • Income losses were widespread, with differences between Federal Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, displaced vs non-displaced populations, and women and men employees.
  • Daily workers were most affected by the economic downturn
  • COVID-19 led to high food costs and the need for coping strategies
  • While community insecurity and gender-based violence increased, community level tensions were low.
  • Delayed income and loss of employment opportunities impacted households
  • Women and female-headed households reported greater impacts in some areas, such as a reduction in household income.

The reports are the sixth and seventh papers in a series released by UNDP on the impact of COVID-19 in Iraq.

"COVID-19 has, and will continue to have, long-term consequences for vulnerable Iraqis in accessing sustainable livelihoods, food security, health and education - particularly women, youth, the elderly, people living with disabilities and the displaced," says Resident Representative of UNDP Iraq, Zena Ali Ahmad.

"As the report clearly suggests, without sufficient attention to these vulnerable communities, Iraq may not achieve long-term, equitable sustainable development and recovery, and risks undoing the progress made towards achieving Agenda 2030. This could further undermine the social contract between the State and its citizens at a time where this is of critical importance. We urge the Government of Iraq, Kurdistan Regional Government, local actors and the international community to consider the policy recommendations outlined in the report and band together and tackle this issue. As always, UNDP Iraq stands ready to support these efforts to improve the lives of all Iraqis," adds Ms Ali Ahmad.

UNDP Iraq is grateful to UN-Habitat and IOM for its partnership and important contributions to Findings of the Assessment of COVID-19's Socioeconomic Impact on Iraq's Vulnerable Population and Impact of COVID-19 on Iraq's Vulnerable Populations.

Previously released papers in UNDP's socioeconomic impact assessment series:

Impact of COVID-19 and the Oil Crisis on Iraq's Fragility

Impact of COVID-19 on the Iraqi Economy

Impact of COVID-19 on Social Cohesion in Iraq

Impact of COVID-19 on Social Protection in Iraq

Impact of COVID-19 on Environmental Sustainability in Iraq

(Source: UN)

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COVID-19: Iraq announces 10-Day Lockdown

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Cabinet on Tuesday approved a recommendation by the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety to impose a 10-day full curfew from May 12th to 22nd, following a rise in COVID-19 infections across the country.

All malls, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, event and wedding halls, swimming pools and gyms will be closed and public and private gatherings will be prohibited.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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