By Dr Khalil Abdul Kareem, Manager, AMAR ICF Clinic, Khanke Camp, Iraq.

Iraqis Prepare for Another War. This Time it’s Covid-19

Life is so unfair. Just when you think a displaced person’s world can’t get any worse here in northern Iraq, along comes a virus that threatens to be the biggest disaster of all.

For almost six years, hundreds of thousands of Yazidi men, women and children have lived a truly miserable life.

First the monsters of Daesh (ISIS) attacked their towns and villages. Thousands were killed and thousands more women and girls were kidnapped, raped and sold as slaves. The rest managed to escape. But they left behind their homes, their precious possessions, their jobs. Their lives changed beyond recognition for ever.

Since then, the majority have been forced to live in the sprawling displacement camps. For years now they have slept under canvas, on hard concrete floors. Sanitation is basic. This part of Iraq is dreadfully cold in winter and insanely hot in summer – it is sometimes more than 50c!

It is the perfect breeding ground for sickness. Now we are faced with COVID-19. In an environment like this, it will spread like wildfire unless we take every possible precaution. It is a race against time.

Here in Khanke Camp, on the outskirts of the city of Dohuk, we have been working non-stop.

Khanke is home to more than 15000 people, and there are almost double that amount of people living as IDPs around the perimeters. I manage the only health centre here, which is run by the UK-based charity The AMAR International Charitable Foundation (www.amarfoundation.org)

We have a small staff of locally trained medical professionals – doctors, nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists – and around 25 women health volunteers (WHVs).

For the last week we have all been working non-stop to try educate the entire camp about how to keep COVID-19 at bay. The place is already over-crowded and there can be as many as 10 people sharing just one tent.

All our teams are out from first light, visiting people and giving them as much information as we possibly can. The biggest message is of course to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Something that is very easy to do when you have access to a proper bathroom and running water, but not so easy here.

But people are scared, so they are really getting the message. They understand the need to distance and to stay away from others as much as they can.

Our clinic is staying open six days a week, and we get up to 200 patients a day. Gastric infections are commonplace of course, as is flu, hypertension, chronic anxiety and depression.

Now every patient is given a lesson in how to keep themselves safe from COVID-19. Everyone knows it’s a threat. They all see it on the news, so they are eager to find out any way they can to protect themselves.

My staff too – like medics around the world – are frightened they could be the first to develop the symptoms. They all have families. Most are the sole providers. If they get sick, what will happen they ask me.

We all take every possible precaution. But access to PPE is limited. The Dohuk Health Directorate supply us, but they have limited stocks of masks, gowns, gloves.  Certainly nowhere near enough to supply the population of the entire camp. We need outside help and support. Right now.

We have done what we can. The rest is up to god. We pray COVID-19 will not make it here.

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KEY MESSAGES

  • 695 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iraq as of 1 April 2020
  • 50 fatalities confirmed due to COVID-19 as of 1 April 2020
  • 170 patients who have recovered from the virus
  • Curfews/airport closures extended
  • WHO expects spike in recorded cases due to increased testing
  • New ministerial high committee formed

SITUATION OVERVIEW

As of 1 April 2020, the Iraqi Ministry of Health has confirmed 695 cases of COVID-19 in Iraq; 50 fatalities; and 170 patients who have recovered from the virus. Approximately one-quarter of the cases are in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI; the remainder are in federal Iraq.

The Government of Iraq (GOI) has extended curfews and movement restrictions in federal Iraq until 19-April. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has extended curfews and movement restrictions until 10-April, and announced that government offices will remain closed until 16-April. Airports throughout Iraq and the KRI will remain closed until 11-April.

The GOI has established a ministerial High Committee for National Health and Safety to help contain the outbreak of COVID-19. The committee is chaired by the Prime Minister and includes the Ministers of oil, finance, planning, foreign affairs, interior, higher education, trade, health, agriculture, labor and social affairs, communications and transportation.

Other members include the National Security Adviser, Civil Aviation Authority Director, Kurdistan Region representative, Communication and Media Commission Director, Border Authority Director and the head of the Iraqi media network.

The confirmed case load in Iraq has doubled over the past week, which the World Health Organization (WHO) attributes primarily to more labs opening throughout the country and the increased availability of testing. There is expected to be a continued surge in confirmed cases in coming days.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society has undertaken a mass disinfection campaign throughout the country, sterilizing thousands of sites including markets, shops, residential areas, hospitals, health institutions, prisons, mosques and shrines.

Camp management actors are working with the Iraq Information Centre (IIC) on the mass dissemination of information related to COVID-19 prevention and preparedness via SMS for families living in camps. The IIC is a call centre that provides information on humanitarian assistance in Iraq to IDPs, returnees, asylum seekers, refugees, and vulnerable host community members.

Some banks are re-opening in both KRI and federal Iraq, on reduced operating hours. This is expected to help ease reported problems with cash-based transfers to people in camps, as well as the payment of salaries for national staff. Partners continue to monitor the liquidity of financial institutions.

(Source: OCHA)

Over the past few years, Iraq’s health system has faced many challenges, including internal conflict and the world’s biggest mass displacement in 2014-2016, all of which had a tough toll on an already fragile health system.

With the detection of COVID-19 in China in December 2019, WHO immediately initiated preparedness efforts, and arranged a series of technical meetings with emergency teams in both federal and regional ministries of health to assess health facilities’ resources and preparedness capacities to respond to a potential importation of the disease.

The sudden eruption of the virus in neighbouring Islamic Republic of Iran scaled up the risk of the disease spread in Iraq and necessitated faster prevention and infection control measures especially in the holy cities and pilgrimage sites, bordering governorates, and vulnerable communities in internally displaced and refugee camps.

Dr Adham Ismail, WHO Representative and Head of Mission in Iraq, said:

WHO is aware of the impact of a pandemic like COVID-19 on Iraq’s health sector and recovering services.

“We discussed with the health authorities in the Center and Kurdistan Region the means of urgent support to contain the transmission of the disease in the country. Joint work is underway and cooperation is at highest levels.

On 2 February, WHO proactively began strengthening national disease surveillance capacities in Iraq and providing case definition and management training, in addition to large-scale risk communications activities.

Hundreds of thousands of prevention and transmission control messages were printed and provided to 20 directorates of health in the 18 governorates, including the Kurdistan region governorates of Erbil, Dohuk, and Suleimaniya.

Mobile health teams took to main streets, public and religious places, remote cities and hard-to-reach villages in addition to airports, border points, state institutions, and camps hosting refugees and internally displaced people.

Maha Salam and Najah Ahmed from Wasit Directorate of Health in Wasit governorate, eastern Iraq, were among the mobile health team distributing WHO health messages to the public as early as 16 February 2020.

Early mobilization campaigns to distribute WHO COVID-19 educational materials succeeded in raising public awareness and readying preparedness efforts to protect individual health and that of the community in general.

WHO is working with the federal and regional ministries of health to increase and augment case management capacities, as well as detection and surveillance.

An urgent consignment of PPEs and laboratory test kits was delivered to ministries of health to enable the timely detection of cases and protect health workers in designated hospitals.

As of 30 March, Iraq reported a total of 572 confirmed cases with 42 deaths and 143 recoveries all over the country. The reported figures are still moderate so far, but WHO expects a spike in the coming two weeks due to the scale up in laboratory testing capacity which are going to be of high importance in terms of infection transmission and control,” concluded Dr Ismail.

(Source: WHO)

Newly trained women in Ninewa produce face masks to combat spread of COVID-19 in Iraq

In January 2020, UNDP and Kurdistan Human Rights Watch (KHRW) collaborated to train sixty women on sewing and tailoring in Ninewa over the course of a ten-day workshop.

At the time, these women could not have foreseen how their newly developed skills would contribute to combatting the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic currently sweeping the globe.

As of 25 March 2020, the World Health Organization has tracked over 400, 000 cases of COVID-19 with over 18, 000 confirmed deaths. The pandemic has affected 197 countries, areas, and territories, including Iraq.

When a pharmaceutical company contracted by the Ninewa Department of Health was tasked with producing five million disposable face masks in response to the spread of COVID-19, thirty of the recently trained women were employed to use their skills to produce the masks.

After briefings on the health standards and nature of the environment required for mask production, the seamstresses began creating thousands of masks daily in controlled conditions.

Working swiftly to produce this vital personal protection equipment despite the curfew in Ninewa Governorate, these skilled women are directly contributing to the mitigation of COVID-19 in Iraq.

Aseel, 45, says:

“We have produced thousands of pieces and the major portion is delivered to the Ninewa Health Department. Some other organizations are also receiving face masks from us and they distribute those free of cost in communities and camps.”

 

 

Not only has the sewing and tailoring skills training empowered sixty women with new abilities, it has also instilled within them hope for their futures. Sustainable development projects such as these are at the forefront of UNDP Iraq’s priorities.

Nora, 37, says:

“I am working on developing myself in the sewing profession and in the future, I would like to create a workplace for sewing or a small factory.”

The organization and facilitation of skills development workshops with Kurdistan Human Rights Watch is part of a project spearheaded by UNDP Iraq under the Social Cohesion Programme, which aims to improve the enabling environment for peace and social cohesion in all areas of Iraq.

(Source: UNDP)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq has seen a relatively low number of infections compared to its neighbour, Iran, the regional hotspot of the pandemic.

Iraq has reported 547 confirmed cases and 42 deaths.

But there is growing concern the virus could overwhelm its fragile healthcare system.

Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn reports from Baghdad.

By John Lee.

French container transportation and shipping company CMA CGM, has announced the first closing of its agreement with China Merchants Port (CMP), with the sale of its stakes in eight port terminals to Terminal Link. Among the facilities involved is the Umm Qasr Terminal in Iraq.

The Terminal Link joint venture was created in 2013 and is 51% owned by CMA CGM and 49% by CMP.

In line with the terms and conditions of the agreement announced on 20th December 2019 this first transaction represents a total all-cash consideration of USD 815 million. It will enable Terminal Link to expand its geographic footprint and global network, thereby enhancing its business development prospects.

This initial disposal includes the following terminals:

  • Odessa Terminal (Ukraine)
  • CMA CGM PSA Lion Terminal (CPLT), Singapore
  • Kingston Freeport Terminal (Jamaica)
  • Rotterdam World Gateway (Netherlands)
  • Qingdao Qianwan United Advance Container Terminal (China)
  • Vietnam International Container Terminal, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)
  • Laem Chabang International Terminal (Thailand)
  • Umm Qasr Terminal (Iraq)

The sale of the last two terminals covered by the agreement between CMA CGM and CMP should be completed by the end of first-half 2020 for an all-cash consideration over USD 150 million, pending approval by the competent regulatory agencies.

With this transaction, CMA CGM is proceeding with the delivery of its USD 2.1 billion liquidity plan announced on 25th November 2019. This plan among others reduces CMA CGM consolidated debt by more than USD 1.3 billion by the end of first-half 2020 and allows to extend certain financing facilities maturing during the year.

The CMA CGM Group strengthens its balance sheet amidst the high uncertainty created by the global Covid-19 health crisis. While the crisis has had a limited impact in the first quarter of 2020, the Group expects a decline in volumes, particularly outbound to Europe and the United States.

On this occasion, Rodolphe Saadé, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group, states:

“This transaction, announced on the 20th of December 2019, is an important step in its 2.1 billion USD liquidity plan and will allow us to strengthen our balance sheet. Amid the high uncertainty created by the COVID-19 health crisis, the closing of this transaction as previously announced demonstrates the resilience of the CMA CGM Group.”

(Source: CMA CGM)

By John Lee.

The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masrour Barzani, has reportedly called for the public prosecutor to launch an investigation into allegations that Russian state oil company Rosneft paid $250 million to a consultant to secure deals in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg claimed that the oil company paid the money an unknown individual in 2017 and 2018 to become the dominant foreign player in the Kurdish oil industry.

More here.

(Source: Ekurd)

By John Lee.

European countries including France, Spain and the Netherlands have reportedly announced the temporary withdrawal of troops from the anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition and NATO Training Mission in Iraq.

According to Janes 360, the withdrawals follow an announcement by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) that it had ceased training Iraqi security forces to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

More here.

(Source: Janes 360)

By Omar al-Jaffal for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Implementation of curfew to fight COVID-19 proves difficult in Iraq

Iraq is working hard to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, which had infected 382 people in the country as of March 26, killing 36.

However, people’s refusal to comply with government instructions threatens to exacerbate the health situation.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

Iraq’s National Investment Commission (NIC), in coordination with the General Committee for Free Zones, has announced the following investment opportunities:

  • The expansional area in Khor Al- Zubair on the land lot No. (13/8 M 44 Hila and 1/3, 2/2, 1/3 M 20 Shaawan) with total area of (20,364,200 M²) that is overlooking khor Al- Zubair stream and adjacent to the sea port and the Fertilizers company with only 55 km paved distance from Safwan border point and full covered by the power grid services.
  • Qaem [al-Qaim] Free zone , on the land lot No. (133/7533 M 21 Deyom Al- maneai) with total area of (430,000 M²) , the land is adjacent to Qaem Border Point and near to Electricity and water sources and close to the center of Qaem District while only (25) km distant from Ukaz gas field.
  • Lands allocated for free zones in Qaem – Ukashat , on the land lot No. (133/7533 and 11/5 M 21 Deyom Al- maneai) with total area of (6,612,500 M²) , the land is adjacent to Qaem Border Point that is only 20 paved kilo meters distant from its strategic location which is close to the Phosphates factory in Ukashat near Ukaz Gas field.

Willing investors are invited to apply through sending their applications to the One Stop Shop dept. of NIC oss@investpromo.gov.iq or by visiting the General Committee for Free Zones in Baghdad – Nidhal Street – White palace next to the Building of the General Committee for customs.

(Source: NIC)