Iraq: Humanitarian Bulletin, February 2021

Situation Report
Originally published
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• Continued Impact of COVID-19 One Year On

• Inter-agency Missions to Return Areas

• Cash Programming in Iraq

• Education Cluster Adapts for Year Ahead

• Access Snapshot February 2021

One Year On, COVID-19 Continues to Impact Iraq

The first case of COVID-19 in Iraq was detected in late February 2020, attributed to a student who recently returned from Iran. Despite the imposition of strict lockdowns, within a few months the country reached the “community transmission” stage. By the end of February 2021, there were approximately 695,000 of COVID-19 in Iraq, resulting in just over 13,000 reported deaths.

While the transmission and fatality rate in Iraq is relatively low, especially in comparison with other countries in the region, COVID-19 has had significantly adverse socio-economic and cultural impacts in the country, including for vulnerable groups targeted by the Humanitarian Response Plan. Several assessments have been carried out to measure these impacts; one which focuses on IDPs and returnees is highlighted here.

Ground Truth Solutions partnered with the Iraq Information Center (supported in part by the Iraq Humanitarian Fund) to conduct a third round of interviews1 with 545 returnees, refugees, and IDPs across Anbar, Duhok, Erbil, Salah al-Din and Ninewa. Respondents noted that the months of ongoing containment measures are taking their toll; people reported being most concerned about education, meeting daily needs, and health. Female respondents were more worried than their male counterparts regarding most categories thought to be based on the disproportionate burdens they have faced during the pandemic. Response actors have observed a sharp rise in incidents of gender-based violence (GBV), and particularly domestic violence, during COVID-19. Significant numbers of vulnerable women and girls have been left without recourse due to a reduction of gender-specific services, including support for GBV survivors.

Parents expressed concern about children falling behind academically and socially, as schools remained closed for most of 2020. Aside from the absence of remote curricula in some areas of the country, respondents cited not having the right devices, an internet connection, or simply the financial means as reasons why facilitating lessons during restrictions is challenging. The lack of educational opportunities is reportedly leading to increased incidents of child labour, notably in out-of-camp locations.

Respondents also reported that loss of income, price increases and health challenges were contributing to unmet needs, which they were coping with by taking on debt or selling assets.

One year on from the first incidence of COVID-19 in Iraq, the country has entered another period of lockdowns and movement restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the virus. Those who are already vulnerable— including IDPs, refugees, and returnees—are likely to continue to be negatively impacted. The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) for Iraq identified 4.1 million people in need (PiN), of which 2.4 million people have acute humanitarian needs. While the number of people in need remained similar to the previous year, the severity of those needs increased, largely due to the impact of COVID-19 on top of an existing humanitarian crisis, leading to a 35 per cent increase in the number of people in acute need. As outlined in the HNO, the main drivers of this increase were the impact of COVID-19 and the partially related economic crisis, leading to large-scale loss of livelihoods. Addressing the continuing humanitarian consequences of the 2014-2017 crisis and related displacement, as well as the compounding humanitarian impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, are the central priorities for humanitarian action in Iraq in 2021, as outlined in the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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