Covid-19. The situation in Iraq

2 April 2020, 17:53

Our operations updates continue with a focus on Iraq, where we have been active for 30 years and where are field staff and partners have decided to keep working on our field projects. They are determined to provide as much support as possible to people who have already lived through years of war, conflict and terrorism, in a country with a very fragile healthcare system and thousands of Syrian refugees and IDPs living in camps. And this is the primary cause for concern: if the virus starts to spread in the camps, where social distancing is just not possible and where sanitation and hygiene conditions are already stretched to the limit, the consequences would be disastrous.

So far (April 2nd, ndr) Iraq has declared 728 cases of infection and 52 fatalities. Lockdown was imposed in 14th March, when all airports were closed including in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan. All commercial activities were shut down to try and contain the spread of the disease, but we are well aware that the situation could degenerate.

Healthcare facilities are just not equipped to handle widespread infection: there are already shortages of medicine and ventilators.

We were quick to follow restrictions imposed by local authorities and cut down our activities, using streaming and online technology to continue holding events and debates on human rights, social unity and equal opportunities.

We are still however working – in accordance with the official safety restrictions – to provide some essential services: this includes handling cases of gender-based violence and manning a 24 hour hotline for victims of domestic abuse, so they can still request support and protection.

Our services for psychological support and women’s reproductive health are also still operational, in keeping with official safety restrictions.

And we are still working on our emergency prevention awareness-raising campaign, which we launched the day the emergency began, in order to contain the spread of the disease as much as possible.