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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Global Solidarity Needed for Iraq’s Vulnerable Children

From Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra). Re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.

In this conversation with Liz McRae, Hussein Al-alak hears about the efforts which the Iraqi Children Foundation have been undertaking, during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. Liz McRae is the Executive Director of the Iraqi Children Foundation.

Can you tell us about the Iraqi Children Foundation and why it was founded?

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) intervenes in the lives of orphans and street children who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation by criminals, traffickers and extremists. The organization was set up ten years ago by Americans who saw the need to help rebuild Iraq after so many years of conflict. More than 800,000 children were orphaned as a result of the Iraq War, and the ISIS occupation displaced another 1.3 million.

Our vision is that all children in Iraq have a voice, and are empowered to reach their full potential. All our programs have this goal in mind. We help vulnerable children through programs like "The Hope Buses"; we convert used city buses into colorful, child friendly classrooms. Each bus has two teachers and a social worker, and serves around 50 children with tutoring, nutrition, health care, social services, practical life lessons, community, and fun.

Another program is called "The Street Lawyers"; a team of lawyers who provide legal protection for children who are targeted by criminals and traffickers, abused by employers, or are facing other risks. They also assist children to get their papers so that they can go to school.

The ICF supports children who are vulnerable. Can you describe some of these vulnerabilities?

There are many vulnerable children in Iraq. In particular, we work with children who are orphaned (meaning, they have lost one or both parents), and children who are working to support their families.

Many children in Iraq are also vulnerable due to displacement caused by conflict. These children are vulnerable to abuse and can be targeted by criminals and extremists. More recently, COVID-19 adds an extra challenge for children and families, as it has done for people all over the world.

The ICF also supports children who are at risk of exploitation. As Iraq experiences many challenges, how does exploitation manifest itself?

For families experiencing poverty, displacement, or a lack of access to job opportunities, the possibility of exploitation is increased. Many children in Iraq have to work to support their families, especially when one or both parents have died. These children can be exploited by employers, and are easy targets for criminals and extremist organizations.

The risk of exploitation is also heightened by the fact that children working are often not attending school on a regular basis. Without access to education, it becomes harder to stay away from potentially exploitative situations.

Many countries have been under lockdown due to the Covid Pandemic, what have the ICF been doing during this time?

Many children in Iraq face incredible hardship every single day, often without access to proper nutrition, education, healthcare, and safety. COVID-19 adds new challenges for these children, and also exacerbates the existing issues.For children living in poor communities, social distancing is difficult (if not impossible) due to large numbers of people living in close confines, and there may be little or no access to hygiene supplies or PPE, food, work, school, and community members. The bottom line is: COVID-19 makes vulnerable children more vulnerable.

During this critical time, we are doing our best to help keep children as safe and healthy as possible. Teams have been distributing food and hygiene supplies to vulnerable children and families in multiple cities, and our Hope Bus staff have paid home visits to children from the Hope Buses to show them how to use PPE and practice good hygiene so that they can stay safe during COVID-19.

We continue to work with the teams on the ground in Iraq, who are doing their best to work safely and always with the best interests of the children in mind.

How can people within the international community, support the Iraqi Children Foundation and their work in Iraq? 

You can do a lot from home; you are not powerless to help the vulnerable children in Iraq. Here are some things you can do to help:

Follow and spread the word - follow us on social media to learn more about the challenges Iraqi Children are facing, to hear ICF news and progress, and share to spread the word so we can make a larger impact (Facebook/LinkedIn: Iraqi Children Foundation, Instagram/Twitter: @IraqiChildren)

Give what you can - every dollar matters, especially now. Donate any amount at our Global Giving page to help. Also, new monthly donors get a 100% match on their first month of giving.

Fundraise - help us fundraise; start your own mini-campaign using Global Giving or Facebook - it only takes 5 minutes! Email liz@iraqichildren.org to find out more, and we can help you set it up.

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HRW: Inadequate Plans for Camp Closures

From Human Rights Watch (HRW). Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Inadequate Plans for Camp Closures

Recent camp closures have stripped thousands of displaced people of essential services during the Covid-19 pandemic, with inadequate government plans for their return home, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

Click here to read the full article.

(Source: HRW)

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Dr. Rafid Aziz Joins Board of Iraqi Children Foundation

Dr. Rafid Aziz Joins Board of Directors of Iraqi Children Foundation

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Rafid Aziz (pictured), President of the United Iraqi Medical Association in the United Kingdom, to join the ICF Board of Directors.

Grant Felgenhauer, ICF Board Chairman, said:

"ICF has pledged in 2021 to expand services to meet the medical and disability needs of Iraqi orphans and vulnerable children. Having a medical professional of such distinction on our Board will help equip ICF to pursue that commitment. We are thrilled to have Dr. Aziz join our team."

ICF has provided occasional medical support to children in Iraq in recent years, such as wheelchairs, prosthetics, and clinical services. But the charity hopes to develop a more robust medical program. Dr. Aziz will be leading ICF's efforts to expand outreach and support to Iraqi orphans and vulnerable children with medical and disability needs.

Dr. Aziz, who went to medical school in Baghdad, Iraq, serves as President of the United Iraqi Medical Association (UIMA) for the UK and Ireland, an independent network that was established to look after the professional and social needs of the Iraqi healthcare community in the UK, as well as to support medical/nursing education and effective healthcare policy in Iraq. He is also the Medical Director, Integrated Urgent Care Clinical Lead, and a trainer at Hertz Urgent Care in the UK.

(Source: ICF)

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Saudi Arabia to Rehabilitate Ibn Al-Khatib Hospital in Baghdad

By John Lee.

The Saudi embassy has announced that King Salman bin Abdulaziz will fund the rehabilitation of Ibn Al-Khatib Hospital in Baghdad, as a gift to the Iraqi people.

A fire at the hospital last month killed at least 82 people, and left more than 100 injured.

Saudi Arabia will also take critically ill victims of the fire and provide them with medical care in the Kingdom's hospitals at King Salman's expense.

(Source: SPA)

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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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Fire Kills 82 at Baghdad Hospital

By John Lee.

A fire at a Baghdad hospital treating COVID-19 patients has killed at least 82 people, and left more than 100 injured.

The blaze, at the Ibn Khatib Hospital, was caused on Saturday night when an oxygen tank is said to have exploded.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has suspended the Minister of Health, the Governor of Baghdad, and the Director General of Rusafa Health Department, pending investigations, which are to be concluded within five days.

(Sources: Govt of Iraq, BBC, Reuters)

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COVID-19 hits Iraqi Labour Market, Enterprises

COVID-19 Dealt Heavy Blows to Iraqi Labour Market, Enterprises in 2020: IOM, FAO, ITC Study

In early April, Iraq surpassed 900,000 COVID-19 cases.

Necessary efforts to contain the spread of the virus throughout 2020 led to a reduction in economic activity; compounded by pre-existing economic challenges, drops in oil prices and the public health COVID-19 crisis, it is estimated that Iraq's economy contracted by 9.5 per cent in 2020.

To measure losses and investigate how small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Iraq are coping with the economic impact of COVID-19, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Trade Center (ITC) conducted a panel study in 2020 on 893 SMEs representing 16 sectors in 15 governorates in Iraq.

The study focused on the food and agriculture sector in order to determine variance in outcomes and effects on these firms when compared to non-agricultural businesses. The primary data used in this study was collected using ITC's COVID-19 corporate survey.

The new report Panel Study: Impact of COVID-19 on Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises in Iraq showcases the main findings from three rounds of data collection, covering the effect of border closures and lockdowns on revenue, production, and employment; accessibility of resources or ability to sell products; and mechanisms adopted to cope with the crisis.

Almost all firms in the study reported a decline in production or sales between February 2020, the pre-COVID-19 period, and the end of the year. Firms suffered large losses in revenue early on (an average decline of 67% by June).

Although revenue partially recovered between July and October, it did not reach pre-pandemic levels (firms reported a revenue drop on average of 23% between February and November). SMEs also reported incurring new debt over the year due to the pandemic, primarily through informal means such as borrowing from friends and family.

The labour market also suffered due to COVID-19. On average the number of employees in SMEs reduced by 27 per cent between February and June. By August, employment numbers began to recover but remained below pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2020, with the number of male and female employees, including full- and part-time, decreasing on average by seven per cent between February and November.

Furthermore, the reduction in employment temporarily widened the gender gap in the labour market. In February, there was 1 woman for every 15 men working in the surveyed SMEs. The gap reached 1 woman for every 19 men by August, but then decreased to 1 for 13 in November 2020.

Over the course of the study period, the mechanisms SMEs adopted to cope with the financial difficulties of the pandemic changed. Initially, SMEs laid off employees. Later, requesting leniency in repaying financial responsibilities and increasing marketing efforts emerged as the dominant strategies. In June, more than half of SMEs' reported being at risk of shutting down permanently (65%). By December, those reporting this risk reduced to less than a third (31%).

The same 893 SMEs were surveyed three times in 2020: 22 June to 7 July, 9 to 18 September, and 29 November to 15 December.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the European Union.

(Source: UN)

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