The turmoil the Republic of Iraq has been witnessing for decades has deprived it of stability and any potential to reach prosperity; then, the country, like the rest of the world, was hit by the coronavirus and its vulnerability increased.
According to UNICEF, 4,500,000 Iraqi children live below the poverty line due to the pandemic(1), which exacerbates the social and economic hardships felt by the people.
While presenting a series of briefs about the reality of social security in the Arab world, the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) documents the measures and responses of the Republic of Iraq to the corona pandemic, as well as the measures it took to protect vulnerable groups such as the poor, the elderly, children, migrants, refugees and people with disabilities. ARDD intends to present a series of researches about the reality of social protection in the Arab world.
Iraq has been in the middle of the most dangerous political crisis since April 2013, witnessing many strikes, demonstrations and clashes. In the midst of the complex political situation it finds itself in, the country also has to face the corona pandemic, which only deepens its plight. The decline in oil prices made it worse for the Iraqi economy, which depends on oil as a main source of income(2).
The Iraqi government is unable to deal with the living and economic consequences of restricting movement to control the pandemic, which resulted in great harm to business owners and freelancers and dried up the day workers’ income(3).
In line with the decisions taken by the Crisis Cell to limit the spread of corona, Iraq released over 20,000 inmates. Authorities took other measures, such as enforcing curfews, suspending schools, and domestic and international flights, closing borders to foreigners, and banning all forms of public gatherings(4).
Iraqi women face additional challenges amid the corona pandemic, particularly due to the measures that limit movement. The risk of domestic violence increased and makes it more difficult for victims to report abuse and reach safe shelters, support and justice(5).
There are fears that the cases of child labour will increase after the pandemic that limits families’ possibilities to work and thus leads to an increase in poverty. Children and adolescents could be forced to work since there are no laws explicitly penalising employers hiring them(6).
The Iraqi government asked the international community to provide it with sustainable funding to fight the coronavirus, as a global pandemic requires a global response. There are 2,414,632 displaced people in Iraq, 247,568 Syrian refugees and 41,237 refugees of other nationalities(7).
Refugees and displaced people face great challenges in accessing healthcare and taking preventive measures, such as regularly washing hands and enjoying proper sanitation facilities, which amplifies the risk of any contagious disease(8).
Civil society organisations have been absent during the pandemic due to their inability to take measures to limit the spread of the pandemic and to the government’s refusal to collaborate with them, as well as with unions and syndicates(9).
Youth organisations and initiatives had some contribution to limiting the spread of corona through a variety of services. For example, “Sons of Al-Hadbaa for Relief and Development” established a sewing project to make medical masks, and Iraqi doctors offered free medical consultations service via phone calls and smart-phone applications, providing information to citizens(10).
It is not possible to anticipate the future of Iraq faced with the pandemic and it is unclear how it can overcome this crisis. There is need for more social protection and equal access to high-quality social services, with a focus on education, healthcare, and protection of children, the elderly and the groups least cared for.