Baghdad, 3 April 2020 - COVID-19 is an unprecedented global threat that demands robust responses from governments, communities and individuals.
The Government of Iraq, with the full support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the entire United Nations family, mobilized early to contain the outbreak. National, regional and local authorities implemented strong measures to reduce the number of cases and suppress the rapid transmission of the virus. These early preventive actions contributed to extending and delaying the epidemiological curve, resulting in comparatively fewer documented cases.
In Iraq, as elsewhere, underreporting of COVID-19 cases is inevitable, due to factors such as fear, cultural issues including stigmatization, undocumented asymptomatic patients, lack of active surveillance and limited testing. Many infected individuals only seek medical treatment in advanced stages of the disease. This not only increases the spread of the virus, but also inflates the reported death ratio. Indeed, mild and recovered cases go underreported and unreported while the documented late stage cases are disproportionately more likely to succumb to the disease.
WHO has been closely monitoring and evaluating COVID-19 laboratory results since the beginning of the spread of the virus in Iraq, and dismisses the prospect that the government is deliberately hiding or falsifying the results. The number of missing cases can only be accurately determined using active surveillance, which the government started recently.
While the government tackles a complex emergency with imperfect data, it must also continue to defend independent reporting, as media freedom is one of the pillars of a democratic society. Transparency, accountability and constructive questioning provide an opportunity for authorities to explain their actions, thus building public trust. Let us remain united in the fight against COVID-19.
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)
Public Information Office (PIO) – Baghdad
Phone: +39 083 105 2640 or +39 083 105 2644