Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 29 November 2020

Coronavirus: Poverty in Iraq increased 10 per cent since outbreak, UN says

Health ministry has recorded more than 210,000 infected cases

An Iraqi man beats himself with chains during a procession in Baghdad’s northern district of Kadhimiya before the 10th day of Muharram, which marks the occasion of Ashura. AFP
An Iraqi man beats himself with chains during a procession in Baghdad’s northern district of Kadhimiya before the 10th day of Muharram, which marks the occasion of Ashura. AFP

Poverty in Iraq has increased by 10 per cent due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN's envoy to the country, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said on Wednesday.

The country has implemented strict measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus since its outbreak but the rate of infected cases are rising on a daily basis.

Iraq has recorded 211,947 cases and said at least 6,596 people have died after contracting the virus.

“Food consumption is insufficient for over three million Iraqis. Over 11 million school and university students across Iraq have seen their studies disrupted and gender-based violence has doubled,” Ms Plasschaert said in a briefing to the Security Council.

The rapid spread of the virus has exacerbated economic deprivation and the provision of social services in Iraq.

The UN envoy urged the government to make economic and financial reforms that “are of great importance to ensure that Iraq can build sustainable solutions and domestic resilience.”

“Economic trouble is never far from humanitarian concerns. Iraq is expected to experience a 9.7 percent decline in gross domestic product,” Ms Plasschaert said.

Iraq needs economic diversity to help elevate its suffering and to curb corruption.

"Corruption remains endemic, and its economic cost untold as it continues to steal desperately needed resources from the everyday Iraqi, eroding investor confidence," she said.

The development came as the Deputy Speaker of Iraq's Parliament become the latest official this week to contract Covid-19.

Hassan Al Kaabi said that he "was tested for coronavirus after showing certain symptoms, and as the result was positive, he is currently in quarantine”.

“I ask God almighty to protect Iraq and its people from the dangers of this dreaded epidemic and for those who contracted this virus a speedy recovery,” Mr Al Kaabi said on Facebook.

The country has reported more than 3,000 new cases a day in recent weeks as the spread of the virus has accelerated.

Iraqi politician Ghida Kambash died last month after contracting the virus, she became the first member to succumb to the virus.

The 46-year-old was a three-time MP from Baquba, north-east of Baghdad, and helped pass laws on education reform and social welfare.

The health ministry warned on Tuesday of a second wave that might begin in October while announcing that it is preparing a seasonal flu vaccine that will be made available to all citizens.

"The recent increase in the number of cases is due to two main reasons, the first is the citizens' failure to comply with the ministry’s official health instructions and the second is the increase in number of daily testing,” Abbas Al Husseini, a member of the Covid-19 Crisis Cell, said in a statement to local media.

Mr Al Husseini said that the second wave is expected to start in the middle of next October “which coincides with the spread of autumn flu”.

Since Iraq recorded its first infected case earlier this year, it has taken drastic measures to curb the virus’s spread, including closing schools and restaurants, banning public gatherings and shutting international borders.

The country’s health system, exhausted by years of war and poor investment, has been overwhelmed by the rising numbers.

Protective equipment, respirators and even hospital beds are all running low, forcing authorities to turn expo centers, stadiums and hotels into coronavirus wards and confinement centers.

The World Health Organisation warned last week that cases are "exponentially rising to an alarming and worrying level.”

Updated: August 26, 2020 07:26 PM

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