With the speed at which Coronavirs (COVID-19) can spread, the use of innovative methods to encourage physical distancing are essential. Infrastructure is used to connect people with each other, and to government resources. UNDP has focused on supporting the Iraqi government’s emergency response capacities with an emphasis on healthcare facilities. Front-line workers have been fighting the impacts of COVID-19 in these facilities since the first cases were confirmed in early 2020.
The UNDP Environment, Energy and Climate Change Project started installing wireless equipment at the headquarters of the Baghdad Provincial Council and Baghdad Health Directorate/Karkh as part of the Iraqi Government’s Mosul Dam Emergency Preparedness Plan. The plan was expanded to include installation of similar equipment in the governorates of Salah al-Din and Ninewa, which would be heavily affected in case of dam collapse. When the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed, the installed equipment was repurposed and used to tackle the virus outbreak and coordinate the responses of stakeholders to the pandemic.
Below is an interview with Dr. Jaseb Latif, Director General of the Baghdad Health Directorate/Karkh:
How have you used the wireless equipment installed in the Baghdad Health Directorate/Karkh to respond to COVID-19?
We used these pieces of equipment to connect with other hospitals electronically as we were no longer able to hold traditional meetings due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the curfew and social distancing policy. They also helped us coordinate our response more quickly, enabling us to control the virus outbreak, especially in Baghdad.
How have you addressed the issues surrounding COVID-19 and found solutions to the obstacles facing the health sector in Iraq?
This is the first time we have faced such a dangerous pandemic which has spread all over the world, including Iraq, in such a short period. COVID-19 has taken the entire world by surprise as an unprecedented disease which is unlike anything we have ever dealt with before. However, thanks to the provided equipment, we were able to coordinate our response and the efforts of all medical staff and meet the necessary needs of health centers and hospitals on a timely basis.
Has the provided equipment enabled you to control the COVID-19 outbreak?
Had our response not been coordinated, the situation would have been much worse and we would not have been able to control the number of cases. At the beginning, our hospitals were not prepared to respond to the pandemic. We lacked the required medicines and needed more beds to isolate and look after patients. Supporting entities including UNDP provided us with electronic communications devices, medicine and the much-needed medical equipment including ventilators. The concerted effort of all stakeholders has helped to reduce the number of deaths significantly.
How will citizens benefit from the equipment?
This equipment has helped protect citizens from contracting COVID-19 and it will improve our response to future emergencies. Coordinating the medial staff response did not only include looking after patients but also raising the awareness of citizens of Baghdad to protect themselves against contracting the virus.
How do you describe the current situation of the health sector in Iraq with the COVID-19 outbreak?
It is difficult to deal with diseases that do not have a cure, including COVID-19, which took the world by surprise. It is no secret that the health sector in Iraq is facing many challenges and difficulties. However, we are working on resolving them to continue providing citizens with required health services.
How can this equipment be used in the future?
In case of emergencies, we can now respond more quickly after acquiring the needed expertise and equipment. Due to the support received, we are now more prepared to respond to emergencies in Iraq including a new spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.
About the UNDP Iraq’s Environment, Energy and Climate Change Project:
UNDP Iraq’s Environment, Energy and Climate Change Project supports Iraq’s emergency and disaster response efforts. It has provided the governorates of Baghdad, Salah al-Din and Ninewa with the equipment needed to coordinate emergency responses among stakeholders with generous support from USAID (the United States Agency for International Development). Similar equipment will be installed in other sites in these three governorates to guarantee maximum preparedness to respond to emergencies in Iraq.