• Preparing for COVID-19 in IDP camps
• New NGO Access Support Unit created
• Liquidity crisis for cash programming
• WFP tackles food insecurity during curfews
CONCERNS ABOUT COVID-19 QUARANTINE FOR SECURITY FORCES ON ROTATION IN NINEWA
A government campaign in late 2019 to recruit security personnel saw a number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) gaining employment with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and as police officers. ISF and police forces frequently deploy on rotation within or across governorates, and after deployment IDPs normally return to their camp of residence during breaks. With the arrival of COVID-19 in Iraq in February, safeguarding the health and well-being of IDPs, particularly those in crowded camps, became a priority. Directives have been issued by health authorities and camp managers which instruct any camp resident to quarantine for 14 days in specially equipped isolation areas prior to mixing with other residents.
Security personnel are among the few exemptions to strict nationwide curfews, and this, together with close living quarters of personnel, increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Despite the high level of COVID-19 awareness-raising conducted among IDPs, during April there were several reported incidents of security personnel re-entering the camps through informal entry points, such as breaks in fences, in order to evade quarantine and avoid separation from their families. Humanitarian actors have had difficulties enforcing the prescribed isolation measures.
There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in IDP camps, but such conduct presents an unreasonable risk to the health and wellbeing of IDPs. Mitigating this risk requires coordination between government authorities, health actors, and security and military personnel. Humanitarian partners have raised the health and protection concerns with senior ISF officials in Ninewa, with the Governor of Ninewa and the Ministry of Migration and Displacement, requesting suspension of the deployment of IDPs living in the camps during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Governor of Ninewa has supported the quarantining of all military personnel returning to the governorate.
Towards the end of April, most IDP camps in Ninewa were strictly enforcing the quarantine rules, preventing admission of anyone who failed to quarantine, and establishing designated quarantine areas. Challenges remain in certain camps where upgrades to perimeter fencing and additional sensitization of residents are ongoing.