By John Lee.

President Barham Salih has highlighted the need to address the obstacles impeding the work of the private sector in Iraq.

Addressing a delegation from the Iraqi Federation of Chambers of Commerce at his Office in Baghdad, the President stressed the importance of enhancing the role of the private sector in reconstruction.

Mr. Abdul Razzaq al-Zuhairi, the Head of the Federation, said he valued the President’s support for the private sector.

(Source: Office of the Iraqi President)

By John Lee.

Approximately $64 million has reportedly been embezzled in Mosul by officials said to be close to the recently-sacked governor, Nawfel Akoub, who is currently on the run following a warrant for his arrest in relation to the Mosul ferry disaster.

AFP quotes Iraq’s Integrity Commission as saying that officials “close to Akoub” had stolen the funds, but did not accuse him personally.

Some $40 million of the money had been set aside to rebuild Mosul (pictured) following the drawn-out battle to oust the Daesh terrorist group.

(Source: AFP)

U.S. Government to Provide Additional $100 Million for Iraq Stabilization

US Chargé d’Affaires Joey Hood has announced that the United States Government intends to provide an additional $100 million to help stabilize liberated areas once held by the Islamic State.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide the funds to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).  With this $100 million contribution, the U.S. Government will have provided $358 million to stabilization efforts in Iraq since 2015.

The Funding Facility for Stabilization is supported by the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and managed in cooperation with the Government of Iraq.

The United States and the GOI are committed to creating the conditions to allow displaced Iraqis to return to their homes and start to rebuild their lives.  Strengthened with new funding, this stabilization program will restore essential services, such as water, electricity, sewage, health, housing, and education.

In his announcement, the Chargé called on Anbar’s elected officials, tribal sheikhs, and residents to protect the project work sites and ‎do their part to re-integrate back into their communities all displaced Iraqis who wished to return home.

(Source: U.S. Embassy Baghdad)

By John Lee.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has issued a report on its “Priority Humanitarian Small Scale Projects: In Health, Education, Municipality, Electricity, Social Care, Agriculture and Livelihoods and Water Sectors Kurdistan Region-Iraq 2019“.

The document presents a detailed breakdown of a total 167 priority humanitarian Small Scale Projects (SMPs) for 2019.

The focus is therefore on small-scale projects with the cost per project ranging from USD 28,000 to 1.2 million.

Download the full 39-page report here.

(Source: KRG)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held its annual Spring Conference at the Mansion House in London on 10 April, hosting officials from the UK and Iraqi Governments and delegates from the major companies operating in Iraq covering all sectors of the economy.

The conference was entitled ‘Iraq – Financing a Modern Economy’ and was organised in conjunction with the Central Bank of Iraq and the Iraq Private Banks League. H.E. Dr Fuad Hussein, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance lead a high level delegation of Government officials alongside Dr Mehdi Al Alak, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, Mr Abbas Imran Mousa, DG Technical Department, Ministry of Transport, Dr Falah Al-Amiri, Councillor for Oil & Gas supplies to the Iraqi Minister of Oil,  officials from the Central Bank of Iraq, a delegation from the Union of Private Banks and the Governors of Erbil and Sulamania.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, President of IBBC and the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan & Kazakhstan opened the conference alongside Alderman Sir William Russell, H.E. Dr Fuad Hussein, The Rt. Hon. Alistair Burt MP, Graham Stuart MP, Minister for Investment, Department for International Trade and Jon Wilks CMG, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Iraq.

Dr Mehdi Al Alak presented a paper on ‘Private Sector Development and Investment in Iraq‘. Delegates received an exclusive insight into the Government’s planned measures and strategies to realise this ambition.

The event marked the 10th anniversary of the Iraq Britain Business Council and special awards were presented to Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne and Eng. Rasmi Al Jabri, Deputy Chairman of IBBC as a token of gratitude for their contribution to the organisation over the last decade.

Dr Renad Mansour of Chatham House, produced a paper on ‘The present situation in Iraq’ which was commissioned especially for the IBBC conference.

Conference Sessions & Speakers

The Banking Sector in Iraq

Chairman: Gavin Wishart, Consultant

Panellists: Dr Mazen Sabeh Ahmed, Central Bank of Iraq; Mohammed Delaimy, Standard Chartered Bank; UK Export Finance (UKEF); Ali Tariq Mostaf, Iraq Private Banking League; Richard Wilkins, JP Morgan

Stock Market & Investment Opportunities

Chairman: John Kemkers, Eversheds Sutherland

Panellists: Shwan Ibrahim Taha, Iraqi Stock Exchange; Dr Alaa Abdel Hussein Al Saadi, Iraqi Securities Commission; Abdulla al Qadi, Crescent Petroleum

Keynote Address: Dr Mehdi Al Alak, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers

Oil & Gas

Chairman: Prof. Frank Gunter, Lehigh University

Panellists: Dr Mark Wharton, Shell; Lawrence Coleman, BP; Bob Dastmalchi, Chevron

Capacity Building in Iraq

Chairman: Ambassador Stuart Jones, Bechtel

Panellists: Dr Renad Mansour, Chatham House; Prof. Mohammed Al-Uzri, University of Leicester; Samer Al Mafraji, AMS Iraq

The IBBC is especially grateful to the sponsors of the event: Shell, the International Islamic Bank, Standard Chartered, Rolls-Royce and Eversheds Sutherland.

Our Partners, Speakers & Contributors

(Source: IBBC)

IOM Launches Funding Appeal to Address Most Urgent Humanitarian Needs in Areas of Displacement and Return in Iraq

Five years after the onset of the ISIL crisis and the subsequent massive internal displacement, IOM Iraq is launching its funding appeal for emergency assistance in the amount of USD 41.4 million.

Although the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has gradually declined since 2017, there are still around 1,750,000 Iraqis living in displacement as of February 2019, due to significant obstacles to return such as damage to houses; lack of livelihoods and basic services; perceptions of insecurity in areas of origin; and mental and psychosocial distress. Around a third of the current population of IDPs, over 530,000 persons, is still living in camps, which require critical support.

IOM’s funding appeal is aligned with the 2019 United Nations’ Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Iraq, which estimates that approximately 6.7 million people are in critical need of support. Nearly 65 per cent of those are concentrated in Ninewa, Anbar, and Salah al-Din, the governorates most severely affected by the recent conflict.

IOM will focus its humanitarian support in Iraq on three groups of concern: IDPs who remain in displacement both within and outside camps, vulnerable host communities in areas of displacement and return – where services are overstretched – and IDPs who have returned to their areas of origin but whose basic humanitarian needs are not being met.

In 2019, IOM plans to maintain its life-saving assistance to IDPs in camp settings through the provision of Shelter and Non-Food Items (NFI) support, providing primary health services, monitoring and addressing protection and psychosocial needs, supporting Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services, and supporting camp co-ordination and camp management (CCCM) of IDP camps and informal settlements.

The appeal also includes a request for the continuation of IOM Iraq’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) which provides real-time reliable quantitative and qualitative data on displacement and returns.

“We highly appreciate IOM’s efforts to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to displaced families in and out of camps as well as support them upon return their communities of origin. We look forward to our continued cooperation in 2019,” said Naseer Abdel-Sattar, Executive Director of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Centre (JCMC) of the Government of Iraq.

“The protracted displacement crisis is one of the critical challenges that needs our focused attention, as many displaced people still depend entirely on the provision of humanitarian assistance. The local resources and capacities are already overstretched and pushed to the limit. IOM has been one of the key partners to provide life-saving assistance to the displaced people inside and outside the camps. We value the continued support and cooperation with IOM to support the most vulnerable people,” said Hoshang Mohamed, the Director General of Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC) in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government.

“Funding for humanitarian assistance is crucial to uphold the basic needs and dignity of vulnerable Iraqis in displacement and areas of return. It will prevent a reversal of the gains made to stabilize areas that have been most severely affected by the conflict,” said Gerard Waite, IOM Iraq’s Chief of Mission.

“Through partnership and collaboration with other humanitarian partners, the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government and local NGOs, we hope to address the most critical humanitarian needs while seeking durable solutions for those in protracted displacement,” he added.

The appeal document is available here (Arabic version here)

Click here to watch our video on the Crisis funding appeal.

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

Baghdad has again been ranked as the city with the world’s worst quality of living, according to the Mercer 2019 Quality of Living Survey.

Just ahead of it in the table of 231 cities are Bangui in the Central African Republic and Sana’a in Yemen.

Vienna again retains the top spot; Zurich and Vancouver follow in second and third places, respectively.

Mercer evaluates local living conditions according to 39 different factors.

More information here.

(Source: Mercer)

  • Test results from international laboratories confirm that the death of millions of farmed carp in Iraq in late 2018 was caused by fish disease, not pollution.
  • The carp suffered from the Koi Herpes Virus (KHV), a lethal disease known to cause almost 100 percent mortality rates in carps.
  • Based on these results, we can therefore rule out that chemical contamination played a role in the fish kill, which should reassure the public that the farmed carp is safe to eat.

On 26 October 2018, a major fish kill episode that wiped out millions of mostly caged farmed carp in Iraq’s central Euphrates region sent the country into major panic. Fear spread that the fish kill was caused by a mysterious pollution that could also poison people, whilst fish farmers agonized over their losses as the source of their livelihoods abruptly vanished.

Deeming the fish kill a national security issue, Iraq’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Dr. Adel Abdul Mahdi, immediately assembled a crisis team led by the Ministry of Health and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture to investigate its causes and take appropriate remedial measures.

“The scale of the fish kill was so huge, we had excavators working for four days clearing the fish from the river,” affirmed Dr. Ala Alwan, Iraq’s Minister of Health and Environment, who personally inspected the situation on the ground once news of the incident broke out. “We also used oil spill booms to contain and prevent the fish from drifting downstream, especially as many fish farmers rashly dumped the dead carp into the Euphrates River,” he added.

Faced with this unprecedented massive fish mortality, the Iraqi Government decided to request emergency technical assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment to help determine the cause of the sudden die off.

Fish and environmental samples were collected by the Ministry of Health and Environment based on UN Environment’s advice from the epicentre of the fish kill incident near Al-Musayab, Babel governorate, approximately 70 kilometres south of Baghdad. Since 2011, this area had become a thriving hub for Iraq’s growing fish farming industry where a rapid expansion in the use of floating river cages to grow common carp (Cyprinus carpio) became established. At the same time, “the high density of fish cages almost back-to-back for kilometres, coupled with extreme overstocking, contravened national regulations,” cautioned Minister Alwan.

UN Environment, WHO and FAO rapidly organized for the fish, water, sediment and fish feed samples to be shipped to internationally-accredited laboratories. Comprehensive chemical and microbiological tests were carried out by three different laboratories, including in Switzerland, Jordan and Italy.

For all the samples taken by the Ministry of Health and Environment, test results showed no significant contamination from heavy metals, hydrocarbons or pesticides. “Unlike water, which only gives a snapshot of environmental conditions at a specific point in time, sediment acts as a storage reservoir for contaminants,” explained Dr. John Pote, Head of the Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology at the University of Geneva, who coordinated the laboratory study commissioned by UN Environment.

“Based on these results, we can therefore rule out that chemical contamination played a role in the fish kill, which should reassure the public that the farmed carp is safe to eat,” he added. These conclusions were also shared by Mr. Ahmed El-Olimat, Deputy Head of Quality and Laboratory Affairs in Ministry of Water and Agriculture in Jordan, who coordinated the test of the water samples sent by WHO to Jordan.

DNA tests run by the Swiss National Fish Disease Laboratory and Reference Laboratory for Notifiable Diseases found the presence of the Cyprinid herpesvirus (CyHV-3) in all fish samples examined, confirming Iraqi scientists’ suspicions that the fish kill was caused by a disease outbreak. They had observed white or brown patches on the gills of afflicted fish as critical clinical signs of an infection. Furthermore, the mortality only affected farmed carp and not wild fish. Virologic analysis commissioned by WHO and FAO – in Jordan and Italy respectively – also confirmed the Swiss laboratories’ findings.

“WHO was very concerned about this incident which could have posed a public health risk to communities in Babylon governorate and beyond. However, after confirming that the outbreak is due to a viral infection, WHO is confident that fish consumption has no effect on human health,” confirmed Mr. Mohamed Hamasha, Senior Environmental Health Expert and Mr. Soren Madison, Food Safety Adviser at WHO.

“High loads of Cyprinid herpesvirus DNA in the gill, kidney and brain fish tissue revealed that the carp suffered from the Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) disease,” affirmed Dr. Thomas Wahli, who heads the Swiss Reference Laboratory for Notifiable Diseases. “KHV is a very serious and lethal disease that is known to cause almost 100 percent mortality rates in carps,” he added. The Principal Virologist at the UK’s International Centre of Excellence for Aquatic Animal Health (CEFAS), Dr. Richard Paley, also agreed that “while overstocking and transient water quality issues such as low dissolved oxygen levels may have stressed the fish and helped propagate the virus, given the current information, one can reasonably conclude that the root cause of this mass fish kill episode is KHV disease.”

With Euphrates River water temperature dropping to 23-25°C in November, an optimal environment was created for the CyHV-3 virus, which flourishes between 16-28°C. Reports of similar small-scale fish kill incidents in multiple pockets in western and central Iraq further validated the occurrence of a wider epidemic.

“The outbreak may represent development of the disease in latently infected fish due to stressor events or perhaps more likely, based on the size of the event, introduction of infected animals into naïve stocks with no previous exposure or immune protection, indicating a recent introduction”, reckoned Dr. Paley.

“This is the first case of Koi Herpes Virus disease in Iraq, and it is a significant case report which will need to be notified to the World Organisation for Animal Health,” underlined Minister Alwan.

“We are pleased to have been able to get to the bottom of this difficult case and intend to build on this experience to improve our environmental surveillance and diagnostic capacity, particularly for viral diseases, so that we can properly investigate such events. Meanwhile, we need to control fish farm numbers and raise farmers’ awareness on the appropriate procedures to follow to prevent and rapidly contain similar outbreaks in the future,” he asserted.

(Source: UN Environment Programme)

Support for Iraq stabilization continues with EUR 2.4 million contribution from Italy

The Government of Italy has contributed an additional USD 2.7 million (EUR 2.4 million) to UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) supporting communities affected by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), taking its total contribution to USD 12.9 million.

“Iraq was officially declared free from ISIL just over one year ago, but that doesn’t mean efforts to stabilize the country are over,” says Mr. Gerardo Noto, UNDP Resident Representative a.i. for Iraq. “Now is not the time to be scaling back funding for a programme that has helped almost three million displaced Iraqis return home.”

“It’s very heartening to see countries like Italy acknowledging this and reaffirming their commitment to helping communities across Iraq rebuild their lives. We are grateful for this support and we look forward to continue serving the people of Iraq,” adds Mr Noto.

“Italy maintains its commitment in supporting Iraq’s stabilization efforts to provide basic services to the newly liberated areas,” says Italian Ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Bruno Pasquino.

“This fourth contribution to the FFS is a testimony of the full engagement of Italy for the people of Iraq, as a qualified partner in various fields, from the provision of services to the rehabilitation of infrastructure and to the capacity-building activity in favour of the Iraqi Security Forces,” adds Ambassador Pasquino.

At the request of the Government of Iraq, UNDP established the Funding Facility for Stabilization in June 2015 to facilitate the return of displaced Iraqis, lay the groundwork for reconstruction and recovery, and safeguard against the resurgence of violence and extremism.

The Facility currently has more than 3,100 projects underway in 31 liberated cities and districts, helping local authorities to quickly rehabilitate essential infrastructure. More than 95 percent of all stabilization projects are done by the local private sector employing local labour.

(Source: UNDP)

By John Lee.

The Financial Times has reported that the recently-agreed electricity deals with Siemens and General Electric (GE) are not certain to be approved.

It quotes Minister for Electricity Luay Al-Khatteeb (pictured) as saying:

“I don’t have financial allocations or the processes available at hand, it doesn’t allow me to cherry-pick the right consultancies to deal with these multibillion-dollar deals. The bureaucracy that I inherited is . . . illogical. … certainly it’s going to be quite challenging to blindly accept such proposals.”

Al-Khatteeb took his post after the non-binding deals, or “principles of co-operation” were agreed with his predecessor, Qasim Al Fahdawi.

He said he that “volunteer experts” are helping “read in between the lines of these sophisticated legal contractual documents.

Last month, Lisa Davis, CEO of the Siemens Gas and Power Operating Company, and member of the corporation’s managing board, told The National last week that “discussions are ongoing.

More here.

(Source: Financial Times)