UNICEF Iraq gets $26m from Germany for COVID Response

UNICEF receives US$26 Million from the Government of Germany to support the provision of basic services and the COVID-19 response in Iraq

The funding will allow 1 million children and adolescents to have continued access to learning through a combination of approaches such as blended learning and 50,000 vulnerable people to receive critical child protection services

The Government of Germany has contributed $26 million to UNICEF to support UNICEF in its ongoing efforts to assist the Government of Iraq in strengthening its systems and improve access to quality basic services for children and their families in the context of COVID-19. This amount brings the German Government's total contributions to UNICEF in Iraq to over 200 million dollars since 2015.

The funding includes support for measures addressing the impact of COVID-19 by ensuring communities continue to receive essential water, sanitation, education and child protection preventive and response services. This will include the provision of personal protective equipment to 20,000 healthcare providers and hand sanitizer gel, soap bars and hand hygiene promotion to over 200,000 people.

"This funding is crucial as we support Iraq to increase access to basic services and bolster the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign. UNICEF thanks the Government of Germany for this timely support and partnership to accelerate our efforts to ensure every child in Iraq has access to safe water, education, social and child protection services when required," said Sheema SenGupta, UNICEF's Representative in Iraq.

"Children belong to the most vulnerable members of the Iraqi population, especially those living in IDP camps. I was very touched recently by my visit in a UNICEF-built school in Shariya Camp", said GER Ambassador to Iraq, Martin Jäger. "Germany is funding UNICEF activities to make sure that Iraqi children grow up equipped with what they need most: health and education, because we can only overcome the Covid pandemic together, it is a global challenge where no one is safe until everyone is safe."

An estimated 1 million children and adolescents will have continued access to learning through a combination of approaches such as blended learning, education TV & online portals and self-learning materials. At least 50,000 people will receive critical child protection services mainly from high-risk areas across Iraq and areas with vulnerable populations, such as camps for the internally displaced and returnee community areas.

In addition, UNICEF will support provision of access to safe, equitable, gender-inclusive water and sanitation services for over 700,000 vulnerable people and their families in targeted governorates, including community-focused hygiene promotion and improvement of WASH services in schools and healthcare facilities.

The project will primarily benefit children and young people, who make up more than half the population of Iraq. As the country marks two years since the pandemic was declared, the number of children and young people estimated to be under the poverty line has doubled. Children and young people 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.

UNICEF, in collaboration with the Government of Iraq and partners, will continue to work on long-term sustainability of national systems by strengthening national capacity to provide integrated access to basic services with the goal of enabling children to overcome poverty, enjoy their rights and fulfil their full potential.

(Source: UN)

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Latest Iraq COVID Travel Guidelines

The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) has released its latest vaccination guidelines.

The guidelines state that, from 1st April, Iraqi and foreign travelers above the age of 12 who have received one dose of Johnson & Johnson or two doses of any other vaccine will no longer require evidence of a recent negative PCR test when traveling.

In cases where an individual cannot receive a vaccine, proof of a negative PCR test conducted in the previous 72 hours will be required.

(Source: KRG)

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WHO provides Medical Supplies to KRI for COVID-19 response

The World Health Organization (WHO) handed over more than 20 tons of urgently needed medical technologies to the Ministry of Health in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The 117-pallet consignment contains a variety of emergency medical devices, mechanical and intensive care unit beds, personal protection equipment (PPEs), and in-kind medical furniture that will contribute to boosting the quality of medical care services and enhancing the local health authority's preparedness to encounter a potential transmission of the Omicron variant in what is considered as the fourth wave of COVID-19 pandemic in Iraq.

"I am happy at the level of collaboration between the Ministry of Health in Kurdistan Region of Iraq and WHO and would like to thank all the hard efforts behind this continued support," said Dr. Saman Barzangy, Minister of Health in KR-I. "This shipment of emergency medical supplies will surely make a difference in the quality and quantity of health care services delivered in our health institutions. Hundreds of thousands of people will now ensure better access to essential and emergency health care services including COVID-19 treatment," H.E. Dr. Barzangy added.

After the significant decrease in COVID-19 infections in the last months of 2021, helped by the rise in numbers of vaccinated people across Iraq, the infection figures started to surge again recently alarming of a new wave of the pandemic in the country, which could relate to the detection of the Omicron variant in the northern city of Duhok in KR-I and the capital Baghdad on 6 January this year.

"This consignment complements the previous emergency and lifesaving support presented to enforce the local health authorities' response to the new surge in Omicron variant cases," said Dr. Ahmed Zouiten, WHO Representative and Head of Mission in Iraq.

"We are concerned about the recent drive in case numbers which we see as a call for a collective action to promote the local prevention and vaccination efforts. WHO and the Ministry of Health on both the Central and Kurdistan Regional levels share the same goal of working to protect the Iraqis and save lives through accessible, sustainable, and affordable quality health care services across the country," Dr. Zouiten added.

It is worth mentioning that in 2021, WHO Iraq supported the Ministry of Health in KR-I with medical equipment and pharmaceuticals worth of over US$2.5 million. The support assisted in augmenting the provision of essential and emergency health care services in the KR-I governorates and productively contributed to addressing the dire health needs of the region's community which continues to host nearly a quarter of a million Syrian refugees and over 1 million internally displaced Iraqis.

The World Health Organization in Iraq would like to express its gratitude for the generous contribution from the People and Government of Germany, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the People and Government of Kuwait for assisting in funding this medical and lab support.

(Source: UN)

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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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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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Iraq launches COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

The World Health Organization (WHO), in partnership with the Iraqi Ministry of Health, today launched a national COVID-19 mass vaccination campaign covering all Iraq including the Kurdistan Region and targeting over 12 million people with children 12 years old and above.

The campaign which commenced today will last until December 31st 2021, and will certainly give momentum to the vaccine rollout process in Iraq to reach up to 40% vaccination covertage rate among the general population by end of this year.

"COVID 19 continues to be the biggest challenge of our time and we must all unite to overcome this devastating public health threat as no one is safe until we are all safe," said Dr. Ahmed Zouiten, WHO Representative and Head of Mission in Iraq.

"WHO and the Ministry of Health in Iraq raised the challenge to vaccinate the maximum number of people possible to control the COVID19 Pandemic as soon as possible, under the theme of "COVID19 Vaccine is a gateway to a normal life". Vaccination has today come in a new outfit and will be delivered in easy-to-access sites, open for long working hours extending to the evening. There will be a lifesaving dose of immunity against this vicious disease for every Iraqi, no one should be left behind" Dr. Zouiten added.

This new external vaccination setting will witness the opening of more than 100 external mass vaccination sites distributed to the 18 Iraqi governorates based on the demographic situation, health indicators, and capacity of each governorate. The sites will further be supported by more than 225 vaccination and direct registration teams deployed with the required daily supply of vaccine doses.

This new COVID 19 inoculation arrangement will support the health system in Iraq to maintain the routine immunization program which was significantly affected by the designation of the health facilities to the delivery of COVID 19 health care services in 2020-2021.

"The Ministry of Health in Iraq and WHO are happy to announce the launch of a massive COVID 19 vaccination campaign today," said Dr. Riyadh Al Hilfy, Director General of the Public Health Directorate in the Iraqi Ministry of Health. "The campaign will target a vast majority of the vaccine eligible population in Iraq through external vaccination outlets with on-spot registration. Our short-term goal is to vaccinate a minimum of 40% of our people including our children aged 12yrs upwards."

"Vaccines are now available, and we urge our citizens to go get their jabs. Let's stand by each other to overcome the difficulties resulting from this disease and bring life back to normal with our determination and the support of our partners," Dr. Alhilfy added.

The vaccine rollout process in Iraq started in March this year accessing 15.1% of the total population with the first dose and only 9.0% with the two vaccine doses as of 6 November 2021. Committed to WHO global vision of scaling the vaccination coverage in all world's countries to 40% by end of this year, the coverage rates in Iraq have raised the concern of the health authorities and WHO in Iraq and necessitated an urgent action to intensify the vaccination activities in an innovative and accessible to all approach.

"WHO would like to reiterate that we cannot end the pandemic without COVID-19 vaccines. We will stop this pandemic only when the majority of people in Iraq take the vaccine," but vaccines should be complemented by public health and social measures. WHO calls upon citizens to seize the opportunity of direct vaccine administration to stay safe and keep our loved ones safe," explained Dr. Zouiten.

WHO Iraq would like to express its gratitude to the German People and Government for their generous financial contribution which enabled the planning and the implementation of this remarkable event, the first of the kind in the region so far.

(Source: UN)

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US provides Additional $3m COVID-19 Assistance to Iraq

The United States, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is pleased to announce an additional $3 million in urgent COVID-19 assistance for Iraq.

USAID's contribution will help Iraq better detect and diagnose COVID-19 infections, reduce COVID-19 cases and deaths, and broadly increase access to vaccines for Iraqis nationwide.

This assistance, implemented by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), will add up to 800 new COVID-19 vaccination locations, including in challenging humanitarian areas, such as in camps housing refugees and internally displaced persons.

It will also provide equipment and supplies, as well as technical assistance to Iraqi laboratories, clinics, and hospitals for testing, diagnosing, and treating COVID-19. USAID funding also will help train frontline workers on caring for COVID-19 patients and promote vaccination among the Iraqi public.

"As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Iraq, this latest contribution from USAID will help our local partners better protect the people of Iraq through increased vaccination centers and enhanced prevention and treatment measures," said Robert Birkenes, USAID's Acting Mission Director to Iraq. "This is an example of our ongoing commitment to help save lives and defeat the pandemic together."

USAID has committed more than $60 million since the start of the pandemic to help Iraq respond to COVID-19. The $3 million in additional COVID-19 assistance funds from the American Rescue Plan Act builds on our August donation, in partnership with the Iraqi Ministry of Health, of more than 500,000 Pfizer vaccine doses through COVAX, the global initiative to equitably distribute safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

The activities implemented with this additional support will contribute to the overall goals of the Government of Iraq's National Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and the National Vaccine Deployment Plan.

(Source: USAID)

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$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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