By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi Ministry of Planning announced the launch of the Social Fund for Development on Sept. 23, with initial capital of $300 million, in cooperation with the World Bank.

The project aims to improve the living conditions of Iraq’s poor. High poverty rates in Iraq have led to repeated protests for 15 years calling for improving the standard of living and for more employment opportunities. These protests have resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries.

A May 2018 World Bank report noted that Iraq’s population of 38.5 million sits at the poverty line with a poverty rate of 22.5%. The spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Ammar Menem, told Al-Monitor that this high rate is due to “exceptional security conditions ensuing from the war and its costs, as well as to the slump in oil prices. This resulted in the cessation of funding of projects for the rehabilitation of unemployed persons, a lack of investment projects and faltering economic growth.”

Click here to read the full story.

Republic of Korea supports UNHCR’s humanitarian activities in Iraq

The Government of the Republic of Korea continues its support to UNHCR’s humanitarian activities in Iraq with a new donation of US$ 1.2 million.

Despite promising signs of recovery in parts of the country, millions of Iraqis still need comprehensive humanitarian and protection assistance. Some 1.9 million people are displaced; hundreds of thousands are in camps. Many will not be able to return home any time soon.

Rebuilding Iraq is no small task. As the country gets back on its feet, it is vital that the people who need emergency assistance continue to receive it for as long as they need it.

Communities affected by the recent conflict are beset by hardships. Thousands of vulnerable people arrive in UNHCR-managed camps every month because they cannot find work or pay rent in their home areas, because progress in clearing explosive hazards is slow, or because services like water and electricity are not functioning.

In July alone, 1,700 families – over 10,000 people – arrived in camps across Iraq. The majority of the new arrivals were displaced at least once before. With each displacement, people become more vulnerable.

H.E. the Korean Ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Song Woong-Yeob (pictured), said,

“The Republic of Korea is deeply committed to supporting humanitarian activities in Iraq and will continue to stand by Iraqi people who are in need of humanitarian assistance. I firmly believe that Korea’s continuing support for the activities through the Iraqi Government and international organizations like UNHCR will further help the endangered Iraqi people to recover and rebuild their communities by imbuing them with hope for a new future.”

Mr. Bruno Geddo, UNHCR’s Representative in Iraq.

““There is no quick fix for Iraq. For people to see tangible improvements in their lives we must continue to respond to the situation, and stand beside the Iraqi people until they can return home safely. Sustainable return is a cornerstone of long-term peace and stability, and thanks to donors like the Republic of Korea, UNHCR is able to backstop Iraq’s journey to recovery. We will support the country’s most vulnerable people for as long as they need us.”

(Source: UN)

Iraq Humanitarian Fund allocates US$5M to support nation-wide campaign to vaccinate 5M children at risk

With pockets of measles outbreaks affecting both internally displaced people (IDPs) and host communities, and considering the current epidemiological situation, the Iraq Federal Ministry of Health has declared an outbreak of measles and requested support from UNICEF and WHO for  an emergency measles vaccination campaign across the country.

To support the nation-wide campaign, the Iraq Humanitarian Fund (IHF) has launched a Reserve Allocation to channel up to $5 million to vaccinate 5 million children of 9-59 months. Risk management activities – including field project monitoring, financial spot checks and audits – will continue to be conducted to ensure the Fund’s effective and accountable management.

Since its inception in 2015, the Fund has disbursed some $221 million to support 388 humanitarian projects of 93 partner organizations. Established in June 2015, the IHF has quickly become one of the largest country-based pooled funds in the world. The Fund supports humanitarian partners to respond to the complex and dynamic crisis in Iraq, including through direct and indirect funding to national frontline responders.

Prioritizing protection, water, sanitation and health in 2018

Despite government-imposed bureaucratic impediments and persistent access constraints affecting parts of the country, humanitarian partners have expanded  their operational presence including in some newly accessible areas. Together, 105  humanitarian partners  reached 1.3 million (38 per cent) of 3.4 million people targeted under the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) in the first five months of 2018.

The IHF is providing a critical lifeline to such activities. As the fund finalizes its first Standard Allocation for the year, $34 million are going into supporting 82 projects carried out by 53 partners, targeting a total of 3.3 million people with humanitarian assistance, in line with the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) Strategic Objectives. The top three sectors covered by the allocation are Protection, Water and Sanitation, and Health. The allocation focuses on assistance to vulnerable populations in areas where displaced families are returning, support to principled returns and service provision in the remaining displacement camps.

Funding status

The IHF has received US$18.2 million in donor contributions towards 2018. With a carry forward from 2017 of $45.4 million, which includes $43 million received from the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom in late November and December 2017, the cumulative contributions to date stand at $63.6 million. The Fund’s programmable balance available for future allocations is around $24.6 million.

(Source: OCHA)

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that Paris-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi has agreed to pay more than $25 million to resolve charges that its Kazakhstan and the Middle East subsidiaries made corrupt payments to win business.

According to the SEC’s order, the schemes spanned multiple countries and involved bribe payments to government procurement officials and healthcare providers in order to be awarded tenders and to increase prescriptions of its products.

In the Middle East, various pay-to-prescribe schemes were used to induce healthcare providers to increase their prescriptions of Sanofi products.

In Iraq, for example, a healthcare professional (HCP) requesting samples of Taxotere in 2012 was also provided with consulting, speaking, and clinical trial fees over a period of years despite the lack of documentation of other support to demonstrate the services had been provided. Sanofi paid to the HCP the equivalent in local currency of USD 28,900 in consulting fees and, USD 5500 in speaking fees.

Sanofi also paid to the HCP USD 125,997 in clinical trial fees. The consulting fees were purportedly related to hosting events and training for HCPs in Iraq. No supporting documentation was found for any of the purported consultancy services. While the clinical trial fees were approved by Medical Affairs, the HCP has never provided reports of findings or observations.

The HCP, who provided the ostensible speaking, consulting, and clinical trial services to Sanofi, requested that the consulting and clinical trial fees be paid by check to an unrelated individual.

Sanofi accommodated the request to pay the unrelated individual without explanation or justification.

“Bribery in connection with pharmaceutical sales remains as a significant problem despite numerous prior enforcement actions involving the industry and life sciences more generally,” said Charles Cain, FCPA Unit Chief, SEC Enforcement Division. “While bribery risk can impact any industry, this matter illustrates that more work needs to be done to address the particular risks posed in the pharmaceutical industry.”

The SEC’s order finds that Sanofi violated the books and records and internal accounting controls provisions of the federal securities laws. Without admitting or denying the findings, Sanofi agreed to a cease-and-desist order and to pay $17.5 million in disgorgement, $2.7 million in prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty of $5 million.

The SEC appreciates the assistance of Fraud Section of the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Autorité des marchés financiers in France.

(Source: SEC)

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Human rights advocates and health officials estimate that 17,000 to 18,000 residents of Basra province have been poisoned by heavily polluted and salty drinking water. On Aug. 26, hundreds of residents stormed the Basra Health Directorate to protest the poor health services provided to those made ill, but relief is not in sight.

Basra hospitals have been struggling since Aug. 12 to treat patients suffering from intestinal and skin diseases. Some hospitals have been so overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients and lack of medicines that were unable to provide assistance in thousands of cases.

According to statistics from the health directorate, Basra’s water pollution is staggering.

Click here to read the full story.

Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas deliver vital support to AMAR IDP clinics

As Iraq’s security conditions have improved, international donors have turned their attention to other troubled parts of the world, leaving many IDP camps in the country on the brink of closure.

Thanks to the continued support of Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas, however, AMAR have continued to deliver much needed healthcare and support to Khanke Camp’s 16,000 residents

Nearly 2 million Iraqis remain displaced within Iraq, a vast proportion of them still in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). From victims of conflict who have lost homes and livelihoods to families too afraid to return to their homes after the violence of recent years IDPs remain among the most vulnerable population in the country.

After the trauma of violence and displacement, families in the camps continue to rely on the safe, supportive and nurturing environment in the camp to start rebuilding their lives. But with charitable funding drying up, many camp facilities, especially health care centres, are facing imminent closure.

Dana Gas and Crescent Petroleum, which have contributed considerably to causes within Iraq, remain committed to AMAR’s services in Khanke, delivering vital health and wellbeing services to the thousands of residents at the camp.

Crescent, one of the Middle East’s oldest and largest upstream oil companies, and Dana, one of the largest private-sector natural gas companies in the region, are committed to helping AMAR deliver vaccinations, antenatal care and child health monitoring at the camp.

IDPs are among the most vulnerable people in Iraq, but sadly they are often overlooked by donors,” said Majid Jafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum. “We are proud to be partnering with AMAR to provide critical healthcare services and training to the people in Khanke camp.

A key part of the health programme at the camp are the Woman Health Volunteers (WHVs), who are the front line to identifying health and wellbeing issues among the residents and are trained to deliver health care when needed. Between April and June of this year, the WHVs made thousands of home visits to families at the camp, providing basic healthcare services and delivering health advice, in addition to providing mental health outreach. In all, the WHVs offered support and services to more than 15,000 people during the spring period.

One AMAR WHV, Thikra, for example, recently paid a visit to the Jamila family in the camp. One of the family’s sons had been showing distressing changes in behaviour, including fatigue, excessive sleep and weight gain. Thikra identified the signs of depression in the boy and confided in Mrs. Jamila to openly discuss her son’s symptoms. She then advised the mother to seek a medical assessment for boy’s the condition and set the family on the path to recovery.

Thikra’s work is funded by Dana and Crescent, and is emblematic of the kind of support the companies are funding and promoting in the community.

The companies also provide funds for vocational training programmes in the camps, including sewing and design, IT, and English lessons, providing residents the opportunity to develop skills that can boost their chances of finding employment or to set up their micro-business of their own.

Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas are among the largest private foreign investors in Kurdistan. Their focus is on developing the region’s natural resources in sustainable way to deliver lasting benefits to local communities. Their US$1.1bn development of the Khor Mor gasfield provides the natural gas to power electricity plants in Erbil and Chamchamal, delivering 1,700 MW of electricity to over 4m people living in the region.

LPG Plant in Kor Mor

Patrick Allman-Ward, CEO of Dana Gas’, said:

“We are committed to developing resources in Kurdistan to provide power to communities and build the structures for inclusive growth, as well as to tackle the economic and social factors that are a barrier to this development. We look forward to strengthening our partnership with AMAR in the future so that we can continue working towards these goals across the region.”

Other projects Dana and Crescent have funded in Kurdistan include renovating and supplying schools, funding hospitals and providing potable water to villages.

Baroness Nicholson, AMAR’s Founder and Chairperson said:

“It is vital that we continue to provide healthcare and education in the camps, as people living there continue to experience extreme deprivation. Thanks to the exceptional generosity of Dana and Crescent, we are able to do this in Khanke. We are very grateful to them for giving us the opportunity to bring relief and support to communities in real need.”

(Source: AMAR)

The EU Supports Reproductive Health Services in Iraq with a new contribution to UNFPA

The European Union continues its support to UNFPA in Iraq through a EUR 5 million contribution to sustain reproductive health and clinical management of rape services across Iraq.

The United Nations estimates that around 825,000 women of reproductive age are in need of humanitarian assistance in Iraq.

The delivery of health care services in both conflict affected areas and Internally Displaced People’s hosting areas has been severely impacted, as a result of the three-year devastating war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

With this funding, UNFPA will support comprehensive emergency obstetric care in six hospitals in Telafar, Hawija, Qaim, Hammam Aleel, Qayarra and Shirqat, Basic Emergency Obstetric Care, in four facilities in Beiji, Ana, Qayarra airstrip and Sunoni, five reproductive health clinics in Jadaa, Salameya and Hamman Al-Aleel camps, and 26 RH clinics in West Anbar, West Ninewa, North Salhuddin and Kerbala.

Mr Christos Stylianides (pictured), European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said:

“The EU will continue to provide critical medical assistance in Iraq. Facilitating access to essential reproductive health services for displaced population and assisting victims of gender based violence are top European priorities in Iraq.”

Dr Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director, said:

The new EU contribution is much appreciated as it will go a long way in addressing the serious shortfalls in reproductive health services resulting from the wide destruction of Iraqi hospitals and health facilities.

“This will also allow UNFPA to continue providing health facilities with urgently needed medical supplies and services, and ensuring that tens of thousands of women and girls can enjoy quality reproductive health services.”

The EU has been a strategic partner to UNFPA in Iraq since 2015 with a total contribution of EUR 21 million to the Fund’s reproductive health and gender-based violence interventions.

(Source: EU)

His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, has agreed to continue his Patronage of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation.

Prince Charles has been AMAR’s Patron for the past 13 years, and during that time has attended a number of AMAR’s milestone events.

Last year he helped to bring our Silver Anniversary to a spectacular close at a special event on December 13th with staff, supporters, donors and trustees at London’s Lancaster House, where he was also part of a panel on AMAR’s campaign for world recognition of the Yazidi faith.

Speaking at that event, His Royal Highness told the guests that he was “extremely proud” of his tenure as AMAR’s Patron, and emphasised the value he saw in AMAR’s work:

“I am sure you will all agree that the scale of AMAR’s reach is profoundly impressive but, if I may say so, it is the ethos at the core of AMAR’s work which is the most impressive thing of all – even in the most desperate and heart-breaking situations, where conflict has shattered lives and persecution has wrenched societies apart.”

HRH has also cited AMAR’s “exceptional model”, which seeks to bring about sustainable change, combines both healthcare and education provision, and is cost-effective, as another reason why he is proud to be our Patron.

AMAR’s Chairman, Baroness Nicholson, said:

“We are incredibly honoured that His Royal Highness has agreed to extend his Patronage. His support has been invaluable to AMAR’s work over the past 13 years, and I am delighted that he will continue to play a leading role into the future.”

(Source: AMAR)

By John Lee.

UK-bassed pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has said it is the subject of an anti-corruption investigation in the US relating to its activities in Iraq

In its latest quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company said:

As previously disclosed, in the US, in October 2017, AstraZeneca and certain other pharmaceutical and/or medical device companies were named as defendants in a complaint filed in federal court in the District of Columbia by US nationals (or their estates, survivors, or heirs) who were killed or wounded in Iraq between 2005 and 2009 (the Lawsuit).

“The plaintiffs allege that the defendants violated the US Anti-Terrorism Act and various state laws by selling pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

“In addition, AstraZeneca has received an inquiry from the US Department of Justice in connection with an anti-corruption investigation relating to activities in Iraq, including interactions with the Iraqi government and certain of the same matters alleged in the Lawsuit.

(Source: AstraZeneca)

By John Lee.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has today issued its Yearbook for 2017, outlining what UNAMI and the United Nations Country Team did for Iraq over the past year.

It can be downloaded here.

(Source: UNAMI)