New York, NY, July 2, 2020 — With a 600 per cent rise in COVID-19 cases in Iraq through June, efforts must be re-doubled to slow the spread of the disease, warns the International Rescue Committee.
With the number of confirmed cases standing at 53,708 on July 1 - up from 6,868 on June 1 - the Ministry of Health has announced that hospitals are almost at full capacity, and that schools and universities will be converted into isolation units to cope with the ever-increasing number of cases.
In addition to the direct impact the pandemic is having on people's health, thousands of people have been affected indirectly by the economic impacts of the lockdown.
A recent survey of 1,491 people carried out by the IRC found that:
- 87 per cent had lost their jobs as a result of the lockdowns
- 73 per cent were reducing the amount of food they were eating to reduce costs
- 68 per cent were spending their savings
- 61 per cent were going into debt
- 68 per cent of respondents said that psychological trauma, stress and anxiety were the main issues affecting women and girls during the COVID-19 outbreak
As protests across the country resume again in earnest, the IRC is calling for more to be done to ensure that people are aware of how the disease is spread and how they can properly protect themselves - and others - so that the situation can be brought under control and people no longer have to resort to negative coping mechanisms to survive.
Christine Petrie, Country Director for the IRC in Iraq, said:
"The rate at which COVID-19 is spreading through Iraq is extremely alarming. We're seeing more than a thousand new cases confirmed each day - sometimes more than 2,000 - and it is showing no signs of slowing down. Although tens of thousands of people are suffering because of the disease itself, there are many more whose lives and livelihoods have been affected indirectly as well. People have lost their jobs and are struggling to find the money to even buy bread. They're eating less, spending their savings and going into debt.
"Humanitarian agencies are working hard to provide emergency cash assistance to those most in need, but it is not a long-term solution. As more and more people return to their daily lives, it is imperative that they are able to protect themselves and others, and the most effective way this can be done is through reinforcing public health messaging. Raising awareness among communities on the effect that social distancing and regular hand washing can have will go a long way to helping to bring the disease under control. We are re-doubling our efforts in this regard and are urging everyone in Iraq to follow the recommendations to wash their hands, practice social distancing, limit contact with others and self-isolate if they have symptoms.
"Once things stabilise there will be a lot of work to do to help people get back on their feet. Their loss of livelihoods will have taken a heavy toll on people's mental health, which was already in a fragile state after decades of conflict and instability. Now is not the time to lose focus on supporting Iraqis after everything they have been through and are continuing to come to terms with."
About the IRC in Iraq
The International Rescue Committee first began working in Iraq in 2003, providing humanitarian relief and recovery assistance to the most vulnerable and crisis-affected Iraqis. The IRC then began providing emergency support to thousands of Syrians fleeing the conflict in Syria. Currently the IRC works in six governorates in Iraq, where our programming focuses on legal case management, protection monitoring, women's and child protection, education, early childhood development, cash transfers and income-boosting livelihoods activities. We support internally displaced people and vulnerable Iraqis and work both in camps and community settings.