Iraq calls on international community to fund COVID-19 fight for displaced populations
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Tuesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein called on the international community to secure "sustainable" funding to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic in countries hosting large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.
He made the comment at a virtual conference held online aimed at dealing with the danger posed by the disease for displaced populations, attended also by the foreign ministers of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Pakistan, plus representatives from both the European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
During the session, Hussein called for "coordinating efforts and finding sustainable financing to meet the challenges associated with the coronavirus for countries hosting refugees and displaced persons, especially in Iraq’s case due to the fall in oil prices," read to a statement from the foreign minister’s office.
He also pointed out that the government is using significant resources in attempts to control the spread of the virus, and that "it has placed the protection of migrants, internally displaced persons, and refugees in camps and shelters as a top priority."
Earlier in the day, the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment announced 787 new coronavirus infections and 22 fatalities, raising the total number of cases since the highly-contagious disease first crossed into national borders to 14,268 and 392 deaths.
Hussein continued, "It is necessary to maintain the mandated UN agencies at the same flexibility it currently enjoys to enable them to meet their commitments and provide advice and assistance to the Government and the people of Iraq particularly in dealing with such risky and infectious disease and social and economic issues that affecting the lives of the vulnerable populations in the camps and shelters."
The new foreign minister also extended his thanks to various United Nations agencies and donors that work with the federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to support the improvement of health facilities and capacity development to ensure that people with COVID-19 receive appropriate and timely treatment in displacement camps, shelters, and informal settlements.
Hussein also pointed out that currently there are more than 1.4 million IDPs in Iraq, 247,568 Syrian refugees, and 41,237 refugees from various other countries.
The conference was organized by the Antalya Diplomatic Forum in coordination with the International Center for Migration and Development Policy to "initiate a dialogue between the countries concerned, to identify the effects of the pandemic on refugees and displaced persons, and to strengthen international cooperation in the affected areas."
The highly-contagious disease has infected over 7.1 million people worldwide and killed nearly 409,000 according to government-reported data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The actual figures could be dramatically higher due to insufficient testing capabilities or underreporting.
Editing by John J. Catherine