On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID19). Since its outbreak, hundreds of thousands of people across the world have been infected. On 11 March 2020, the Director of WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. In Iraq, the first confirmed case of COVID19 was recorded on 24 February 2020, in the city of Najaf. More cases started to be reported in other governorates. As of 17 March 2020, 154 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in Iraq, 11 fatalities confirmed due to COVID-19, and 41 patients have recovered from the virus. The Iraqi government, as a mitigation measure to prevent the spread of the virus, has imposed restrictions/lockdown of movements. These measures led to a range of impacts on humanitarian operations and response. Consequently, the COVID-19 Humanitarian Operations Cell (HOC) was established on 5 March 2020 to lead the strategic management of the humanitarian response to the COVID-19 situation, including coordination and engagement with government authorities.
The COVID-19 HOC, with the support from all Clusters in Iraq, conducted a prioritization exercise of the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) 2020 activities including the categorization of activities directly relating to COVID-19 containment, prevention or response. On 9 March 2020, the list of activities was endorsed by the HOC and they were shared with the government authorities for their assistance in guaranteeing humanitarian transit and access. The humanitarian leadership continues to advocate with the government authorities that all prioritized activities continue if practicable, under current health protocols. The GBV sub-cluster contributed to developing key messages to GBV partners in Iraq to demonstrate the outcomes of prioritization exercise in relation to GBV priority activities. The document can be accessed here.
Women and girls in Iraq are disproportionately affected by GBV due to gender inequality, social norms, harmful traditional practices and unequal education opportunities. According to Iraq GBV IMS data, 98 per cent of GBV survivors who reported GBV are women or girls. Domestic violence is the main gender-based violence context for over half of the reported incidents, followed by forced/child marriage. Disease outbreaks affect women, girls, boys and men differently, and may exacerbate the already existing inequalities based on age, gender and disability. Out of 4.1 people in need in 2020, 46% are children, 27% are women and 15% are people living with disabilities. 2 The protection of women and girls should be a priority, in order to prevent/mitigate the risks that may expose women and girls to GBV and infection. The specific needs of the vulnerable persons, including the elderly, women and child-headed households and persons living with disabilities, must be considered in the tailored response interventions. This Guidance Note highlights the impact of COVID-19 on GBV in Iraq, and provides key messages and recommendations to be considered in order to prevent/mitigate the GBV risks during the time of COVID-19.