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GOAL on the Ground: Combating the spread of Covid-19 in Iraq


June 10, 2020 • 4 min read

As part of our ‘GOAL on the Ground’ series, Kevin Naughton looks at how GOAL is helping vulnerable communities fight the spread of Covid-19 in Iraq.

To date, Iraq has recorded over 11,000 cases of COVID-19 and 318 deaths. Refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) are among the groups most affected by the pandemic. Many of these people depend on seasonal employment as their only source of income. GOAL has been working with these communities to ensure they have access to finances and services while they face restrictions due to ‘lockdown’.

The Challenges in Iraq

GOAL’s team in Iraq has adapted its existing programs to deal with the spread of COVID-19. Services such as schools, banks, government offices, courts, and community centers have been closed, and GOAL is working to help local communities adjust to these restrictions. While food availability and prices have remained stable, access to markets and livelihoods is an increasing concern.

Many thousands of Iraqis and refugees have lost their jobs. Ensuring a steady supply of cash to these communities is the most effective way to ensure people can meet their basic needs. Local restrictions on movement and gatherings have made cash distribution more difficult.

In-person and large-scale needs assessments, community selections, providing employment training, coaching, etc. have been put on hold, and field missions have had to be cancelled or postponed, making it increasingly difficult to plan for, monitor and implement critical humanitarian activities.

In May 2020, GOAL Iraq carried out a need/impact assessment with 330 households from existing most vulnerable community beneficiaries in Nineveh (Mosul) and Duhok City. The study shows that the highest percentages of those interviewed indicated that they took on loans and/or debt. The main source of income for most of those interviewed was temporary work, however many of these income streams have been suspended.

Disease Prevention

Conflict has affected public health infrastructure in Iraq for many years. The situation is especially critical in refugee camps that are already faced with public health risks associated with disease outbreaks.

GOAL’s disease prevention is focused primarily on health and hygiene promotion. GOAL is the only aid agency operating in Akre and Gawilan camps, home to Syrian refugees in the northern Duhok governorates.

PPE distribution in Gawilan

To date, GOAL has reached more than 8,940 individuals with COVID-19 supports. These include providing more than 1,800 families with awareness messaging through tent-to-tent visits and Focus Group Discussions, and 1,783 families with COVID-19 hygiene and information kits.

GOAL is planning to provide PPE to the Directorate of Health (DOH).

WASH (Water Access, Sanitation and Hygiene)

GOAL Iraq has distributed COVID-19 kits, which consist of a range of basic hygiene items for over 1700 families. In order to ensure proper hygiene can be maintained in the camps, which struggle with access to clean water, GOAL has stepped up its activities to maintain local WASH facilities.

For example, in Galiwan camp, home to 295 families, GOAL has provided;

  • emergency safe water supply: chlorinated water provided through water trucking.
  • sustainable safe water supply through local boreholes.
  • Regular testing quality of water supply.
  • Permanent sanitation facilities: Latrines and shower rehabilitation.
  • Waste management in the form of clean-up/debris removal campaigns.
  • New latrines and showers.

In addition, GOAL is installing 12 handwashing stations (touchless) in the public centers in Gawilan and Akre camps.

Protecting and safeguarding vulnerable communities in Iraq

According to a report published by local authorities, reports of gender-based violence (GBV) incidents, including domestic violence, self-immolation, self-inflicted injuries due to spousal abuse, sexual harassment of minors and suicide, and transactional sex are increasing. This is partly due to heightened tensions within households, particularly those whose inhabitants have lost livelihood opportunities.

As part of GOAL Iraq’s response to keep communities safe, our COVID-19 campaign messaging also includes information on GBV and safeguarding. All the community mobilizers were trained on safeguarding and GBV to be familiar with different types of violence. The GBV and safeguarding sessions were provided to 1,867 families in both camps integrating with Community-Led Action sessions.

Door-to-door information sessions being held in Akre Refugee Camp

GOAL Iraq has distributed booklets, brochures and posters containing key information to the community on the need for men, women and children experiencing violence to report cases and the information on reporting channels, besides awareness on community-response mechanism.

GOAL has previous experience in combatting infectious diseases, including the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Our teams in Iraq and other countries are using this experience in addition to their local expertise to help vulnerable communities such as refugees combat the spread of COVID-19.