Dr. Mona with Amsha Hussein Mendo, Son/ Iraq
With more than 62,000 infections and over 2,500 related deaths[i], Covid-19 is pushing vulnerable communities in Iraq on the brink of survival. Highly vulnerable communities, including 1.4 million internally displaced people, are most at risk, warns CARE International.
In a recently conducted survey among more than 1,400 people in Northern Iraq[ii], CARE found out that 74% of the interviewed needed to reduce their meals, 66% were forced to buy less of essential supplies such as soap while 61% stated that making further debt was the only way to cope with the current economic situation since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
With humanitarian funding for COVID-19 falling short of an alarming rate of 87% for Iraq[iii], CARE urges donors to step up their financial support to manage the current health emergency while ensuring essential supplies reach those in need.
“Despite on-going violence and movement restrictions, we heard of families who have been displaced for years now going back to their home towns in Sinjar – places where they have nothing left and experienced horrific violence and trauma – because COVID-19 and related lockdown makes their lives unbearable in camps and other displacement settlements,” says Wendy Barron, Country Director of CARE International in Iraq. According to UN OCHA, in the month of June 2020, COVID-19 related movement restrictions and on-going hostilities hindered the access to an estimated more than 172,000 people in need of humanitarian aid[iv].
“We recently talked to a young mother living in a camp for internally displaced people who despite dealing with trauma and cancer for years, had been running a successful small restaurant supporting her family to meet their basic needs,” explains Barron. “But coronavirus restrictions forced her to close her business. Since then she doesn’t know how to feed her family or pay for her urgently needed doctor’s appointments.”
As the economic situation in Iraq has remarkably worsened since the outbreak of the coronavirus, with poverty rates expected to double from 20% to 40% in 2020[v], CARE is especially concerned about the situation of women and girls. “Women face difficulties accessing healthcare because of stigma around COVID-19, they are more vulnerable to violence in their own homes and on top of it are highly economically disadvantaged, often carrying out insecure or informal work and have therefore less access to and control over meeting their daily needs,” adds Barron.
In addition to providing essential services like clean drinking water and hygiene items to prevent a further outbreak of COVID-19, CARE and partner organizations are playing a crucial role in camps for internally displaced people and host communities across Northern Iraq by providing business opportunities and psychosocial support, in particular to women and girls.