Economy

Iraqis extend helping hand to those affected by economic fallout from virus

By Khalid al-Taie

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Members of the Iraqi Army hand out food baskets to needy people affected by the preventive measures against COVID-19 on April 1st. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

The Iraqi government is working with aid organisations to provide assistance to needy families affected by the country-wide curfew imposed since March 17th to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The global pandemic has shown the face of solidarity amongst Iraqis regardless of their background as they rush to help one another.

"These difficult days have yet again demonstrated the true mettle of Iraqis and their unity and solidarity," said Layla al-Barazanchi, director of Jud, a Mosul-based humanitarian organisation for development and reconstruction.

"We receive food donations from affluent and less affluent individuals on a daily basis to distribute to needy families," she said. "They sometimes give us cash so we can buy food for the poor."

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The Iraqi Ministry of Trade continues to process shipments of food rations for Iraqis despite the COVID-19 pandemic. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Trade]

Volunteer teams from Jud and other organisations have been handing out food baskets to the needy that include various dry foods in addition to relief supplies.

"We have distributed these baskets to poor families, most of whom live in western Mosul, especially in the Old City, as well as neighbourhoods in eastern Mosul, such as al-Intisar and Somar," al-Barazanchi said.

About 60 Jud female volunteers have also been sewing health protection kits at the organisation's sewing factory, which is currently producing 10,000 face masks per day that are being distributed to hospitals, security forces and residents.

Security forces support poor families

Meanwhile, security forces are supporting the national drive to assist poor families.

Diyala police command spokesman Brig. Gen. Nihad al-Mahdawi told Diyaruna they have been handing out at least 2,000 food baskets per week.

They are also making field visits to poor families to inspect their conditions and document complaints and requests, in collaboration with civil society organisations and volunteers.

The Diyala police command is preparing "a database of poor and needy families and grouping them into three buckets in order to provide aid in a systematic and focused way", al-Mahdawi said.

"Specialised security committees have identified around 3,000 families in Baquba (Diyala's provincial capital) that are in dire need of ongoing and focused support," he said.

These committees are now also identifying eligible families in Diyala's remaining districts and including them in the database, he said, adding that "this will help direct resources and efforts in an optimal way for these families during normal times as well as times of crises and emergencies".

Several Iraqi ministries also have mobilised their efforts to support the poor with the help of volunteers.

The Ministry of Labour has been working with civil society organisations to distribute one million food baskets to poor families in Baghdad and other provinces.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade continues to supply food rations to aid card holders through its certified agents, it said in a statement.

The situation looks "reassuring" and the warehouses contain ample supplies of essential food items, it said.

The ministry said that since the start of the curfew until April 7th, they have distributed three million sacks of flour (50 kilogrammes each), in addition to other supplies such as cooking oil, rice and sugar.

Social solidarity initiatives

Iraqi Health Ministry Undersecretary Jassim al-Falahi told Diyaruna the preventive measures that the COVID-19 crisis cell has put in place have taken into account the difficult economic conditions of poor families.

"There are many families who rely on daily wages whose livelihoods have been affected by the curfew, and the government has intervened to provide them with food and social support," said al-Falahi, who is a member of the crisis cell.

During an April 7th meeting, Iraq's Higher Committee for Health and National Safety allocated 600 billion Iraqi dinars (nearly half a million dollars) over the next two months to support nearly 10 million citizens.

Al-Falahi lauded social solidarity initiatives, saying that "donations from businessmen and affluent individuals, as well as charitable and humanitarian initiatives from organisations, all contribute towards supporting the government in its effort to contain the economic fallout from the pandemic prevention plan".

This support is not limited to providing food for the needy but "to also supplying our health institutions with health protection kits and ventilators", he said.

Four hospitals designated for treating coronavirus patients will be constructed thanks to these social initiatives, according to al-Falahi.

"This crisis has once again revealed the deep ties amongst Iraqis and the extent of their civic awareness," he said.

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