• Following confirmation of COVID-19 cases in Iraq, the WASH Cluster activated a response taskforce; technical guidelines and messages have been translated into Arabic and Kurdish to mitigate spread of infection.
UNICEF has supported 239,808 individuals in IDP camps (110,312 children, 122,302 females) with continued access to safe water.
• Despite COVID-19 movement restrictions in March 2020, in the first quarter of 2020 UNICEF child protection partners had delivered continued psychosocial support for 20,838 children (10,087 girls), which is 67 per cent of the Child Protection Sub-Cluster response to date.
• In light of school of closures, Education partners, including UNICEF, are working to strengthen opportunities for at-home and remote learning during school closures. UNICEF is working with the MoE to launch an on-line learning platform, and developing strategy for ‘catch-up’ education interventions.
• At least 2,163 children under five (U5) were vaccinated against polio; there is concern in Iraq, and globally, that continued movement restrictions due to COVID-19 will severely impact planned routine and campaign vaccination services, increasing rates of vaccine-preventable disease among children.
Funding Overview and Partnerships
In 2020 UNICEF is appealing for US$62.2 million to sustain and improve provision of critical basic services for children and women in Iraq. Between January and March 2020, the Governments of Canada and Japan have generously contributed to the UNICEF response for internally displaced people (IDP). UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to all donors for contributions received.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian
Needs Since late February 2020 Iraq, like many countries, confirmed its first cases of people affected by novel coronavirus, COVID192 . As of 31 March 2020, there were 697 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iraq, and 477 cases were still classed as ‘active’. Of these, 51 fatalities had been confirmed and 169 patients reported as cured. 3 Of the active cases as of 31 March, 61 were children 19 and under, and 18 children were reported as cured. There had been no child deaths of COVID19 reported. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), patients are around 42 per cent female and 58 per cent male; positive cases have been found in all age groups with a heavier concentration in adults who are middle-aged and older. The federal and Kurdistan Regional Governments (KRG) responded to risk of transmission of the virus by declaring public holidays, shutting schools, closing borders for nonessential traffic, and banning movement outside homes other than to access to food, medicine, or due to emergencies.
Impact of movement restrictions on humanitarian response has been significant. With closure of internal and international land and air borders, humanitarian partners have been working to ensure critical items, particularly medical and health-related supplies, are exempted from restrictions. Since late February, humanitarian partners across all Clusters and Sectors worked to assess changing needs of conflict-affected, displaced, and other vulnerable populations receiving humanitarian assistance, adapted programming where possible, and updated service and operational guidance for partners to include methods of remote support for all programmatic areas.
Prior to movement restrictions, in January and February large-scale public demonstrations that began in October 2019, had continued across many areas in central and southern Iraq. Protestors called for improved anti-corruption measures, increased livelihood opportunities, and better basic services. Since 1 October, violence during these demonstrations caused at least 424 deaths and at least 8,758 injuries including members of the Iraqi security forces.4 In addition to internal strain, a continuation of escalating tensions was seen between the United States and Iran most notably in the 3 January 2020 air strike that at Baghdad International Airport that killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) leader Qasem Soleimani and senior Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) figure, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. This has been followed in the first quarter of 2020 by continuing retaliatory air strikes by Iran on several Iraqi military bases hosting US personnel. Although tensions remain, as of March 2020 impact on civilians from these events has been minimal.
As of 31 March 2020, more than 1.39 million people (653,000 children) remained internally displaced in Iraq, mainly in the north and west of the country, while 4.6 million people (1.8 million children) had returned to places of origin. 5 Rates of return since the end of large-scale armed conflict in 2017 have been slower than anticipated. Of those displaced, many indicate no immediate intention to return.6 Data shows that, as of March 2020, 62 formal camps remained open with a population of 277,177 individuals (138,758 children)7 , compared to 67 camps with a poplatoin of 336,690 individuals as of December 2019.