Britain commits $4.2m to aid Iraqi fight against COVID-19

Britain commits $4.2m to aid Iraqi fight against COVID-19
Medical staff in protective gears distribute information sheets to Iraqi passengers returning from Iran at Najaf International Airport on March 5, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 19 April 2021

Britain commits $4.2m to aid Iraqi fight against COVID-19

Britain commits $4.2m to aid Iraqi fight against COVID-19
  • War-torn country grappling with its worst outbreak since start of pandemic
  • Experts: Without assistance, Iraq will not be able to cope against second wave

LONDON: In partnership with the UN, the UK has committed £3 million ($4.2 million) in funding to help the Iraqi government respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Iraq has been grappling with its worst spike yet in COVID-19 infections, and experts have warned that its vaccination program is woefully ill-equipped.

“Containing the coronavirus outbreak is the government of Iraq’s top priority, particularly with the second wave of infections countrywide,” said Zena Ali Ahmad, resident representative for the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“The UNDP is on the frontline, supporting Iraq’s national healthcare system to tackle the outbreak,” she added.

The UK’s “generous contribution enables us to boost our support even further as we collectively fight this pandemic.”

The UNDP said the money will be used to strengthen Iraq’s health sector in response to the pandemic, improve access to isolation wards and medical equipment, increase public awareness of COVID-19 symptoms and prevention measures, and provide personal protective equipment to healthcare workers.

With this contribution, the UK has joined 11 other countries — including the US, Japan, Germany and Canada — in financially supporting the UNDP’s work against COVID-19 in Iraq.

The UK supports Iraq’s government in its fight against COVID-19, “which continues to cause such challenges in both of our countries,” said British Ambassador Stephen Hickey.

“We are pleased to make available this funding through the UNDP to strengthen Iraq’s national health response and help manage the ongoing outbreak.”

Omar Ebeid, project coordinator in Baghdad for Doctors Without Borders, said Iraq’s inability to access vaccines, and its relatively large population, mean that “the end of COVID is hard to see.”

In late March, he said the war-ravaged country had received just 386,000 vaccine doses — a “totally inadequate” number given its 40 million inhabitants.

“The country should be considered one of the priorities globally for vaccination efforts, and a priority in the Middle East, where it has been one of the hardest-hit nations,” Ebeid added.

“With a health system weakened by years of conflict and its associated ills, and an economy struggling in the wake of the crash in the price of oil, the government will struggle to vaccinate all those who need it without substantial assistance from other countries in the procurement of vaccines and other international organizations in their distribution,” he said.

“Even when this wave recedes, it will not be the end unless Iraqis get the vaccines they so desperately need.”