Reporting date: 14th Oct. 2020
Total cases: 409,000
Iraq recorded its first outbreak of COVID-19 in February 2020. In the days that followed, decisive action was taken to restrict movement and prevent the spread of the virus. Despite initial success, the steady loosening of restrictions has negatively impacted the situation. By late October 2020, Iraq, a nation of 40 million, had surpassed 409,000 positive cases and registered almost 9,970 deaths – a cruel blow for a country debilitated by two decades of armed conflict…
Unsurprisingly, it is the most vulnerable who suffer the worst of the pandemic. The erosion of jobs, widening education gap and an upsurge in domestic and gender-based violence are coupled with insufficient aid, leaving thousands of families unable to access vital public health services or put food on the table.
Dorcas is delivering a vital combination of humanitarian aid, livelihoods support and psychosocial care to protect the most vulnerable in this setting. As the pandemic expands, we are adapting our existing programmes to reach increasingly exposed communities across Iraq – working with both local and international actors to conceptualize new elements that meet the demands of the fluctuating context.
DAI-Iraq delivers several relief programmes to IDPs inside camps in Dohuk City and to thousands of Yazidi and Arab villages in the Sinjar area. These programmes include protection, legal assistance, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and school construction as well as livelihoods support and food security.
We have adapted our Food, Security and Livelihoods (FSL) and Protection projects – part of our wider programme with donors – to deliver multi-purpose cash support to families living in volatile IDP camps and informal settlements across Iraq. Dorcas staff with the help of local volunteers are using secure mobile and internet platforms to communicate important messages, stay in touch and make cash transfers.
In remote rural areas we have also adapted our agriculture and livelihoods programmes to meet strict physical distancing and public health guidelines. Our activities take place in limited numbers but we have accelerated our support, encouraging vulnerable returnees to build their resilience and use the local land to feed and support their families.
“Prior to COVID-19, Dorcas was making important steps towards rebuilding Iraqi society in a manner that promotes justice and healing”, says Wisam Obayes, Dorcas Country Director in Iraq. “What we can’t afford to do, no matter the circumstances, is lose that progress – and that requires immediate action but also careful planning and thought.”
In the weeks ahead, the Dorcas Iraq team will be building on their existing response and making strategic decisions based on educated projections. “COVID-19 poses an unprecedented threat; there are still plenty of unknowns, but, in some areas, we are beginning to see patterns”, Wisam continues. “To uphold the safety and wellbeing of those we serve as well as our staff, many of our projects have been put on hold until further notice. But, now, we need to reflect, adapt and get them up and running again or reallocate funds to the responses that are working.”
“We’re identifying online forums where staff can get together in the most efficient manner as well as coordinate our activities with external agencies.” – Wisam Obayes, Country Director Dorcas Iraq
Since the onset of the pandemic, interrupted humanitarian aid as a result of nationwide lockdowns has reduced Dorcas’ ability to meet urgent needs or move about certain regions freely. Wisam adds: “Changes to policy are unpredictable but there needs to be a plan in place – the right communication channels – to address these issues ahead of time. We’re looking at online forums where staff can get together in the most efficient manner as well as coordinate our activities with external agencies. This has long been a challenge for the international NGO sector, but now might just be the time to make a change.”
Dorcas programmes in Iraq are primarily funded by UNOCHA and Nadia Initiatives Organization and implemented directly with the support of key partners such as World Vision & Harikar as LNGO. We will continue to work together to tackle COVID-19, gather critical learnings and free up funds for successful initiatives. Follow us on Facebook to stay up-to-date or visit our dedicated country page.
10 November 2020