Baghdad, 26 March 2020 - It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of the challenges facing Iraq at the moment. Political, security, social and economic crises have been compounded by the global COVID-19 pandemic which has not spared Iraq.
These are truly unprecedented times. As the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently stated, unprecedented times call for unprecedented preventive measures. Priority one is to stop the virus from spreading rapidly, and I commend the government authorities for their tireless work on the ground in pursuing this objective. But this is a fight for each and every individual: no amount of government action can succeed without the active involvement of the entire population.
Here I would like to recall the wise words of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has urged Iraqis to obey medical advice on physical distancing, and not to gather in large numbers, where the risk of people infecting others and spreading the virus is very high. I again emphasize, as I did in my recent press conference with Minister of Health Jaafar Allawi and WHO Representative Dr. Adham Ismail, that all sports, cultural, religious and/or other gatherings must be avoided in order to contain the rapid spread of this virus.
Physical distancing, good hygiene and, where necessary, self-isolation can take a large toll on economic and emotional wellbeing. At times like this, it is important to recall that we are all in this together. Not only all Iraqis, from across the country and from all walks of life, but indeed all of humanity. People should not feel embarrassed if they take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and others. Every girl and boy, woman and man has an essential role to play in this fight, and we should all be proud to play our role. The way each and every one of us manages this moment will determine how soon we can begin to return to normal.
There is good news: we know what works. We know what measures, when properly observed with discipline, consistency and patience, will contain the virus and see us through this crisis. Abiding by the instructions is key to protect yourself, your loved ones and the community at large.
The people of Iraq have overcome such hardship in the past that I am confident they can weather this storm with solidarity and resolve. It is my sincere hope that political leaders will at long last recognize the urgency of the situation and come together in a spirit of national unity. Secretary-General Guterres has called for an immediate global ceasefire to focus on what he described as “the true fight for our lives”. Surely at a time like this, partisanship and narrow interests must yield to the greater national cause and the good of the Iraqi people.
The United Nations remain more than ever by the side of Iraq during this critical phase. The World Health Organization (WHO) is in the lead, providing assistance on the ground as well as technical support and training. It is joined by the entire UN family which continues to carry out its work during this time of crisis.
We are, as we must be, united in our determination to win the fight against COVID-19.
Stay safe, stay strong, and look after each other. Thank you.