Sunday, 22 March 2020 16:11

Remarks by the SRSG UN Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert at the Iraqi Ministry of Health

Baghdad, 22 March 2020 I have just finished my meeting with the Minister of Health, in the presence of the World Health Organization Representative in Iraq, Dr. Adham, and their teams.

I am here to emphasize our support to their efforts, as well as to the endless efforts of the medical professionals. They are the unsung heroes in the fight against the coronavirus.
I will speak to you frankly. COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge which should be taken extremely seriously. And there is no time to waste.
I would like to add my voice to the health, religious, civilian and security authorities calling on the people to abide by the instructions and advice already issued by international health authorities, as well as national recommendations issued by Crisis Committee 55 and local health authorities. All of us must abide by these instructions.
So far, Iraq has been able to contain the spread of the virus. But this is just an initial victory in a longer struggle. And it has to be clear that this virus can only be fought with the full cooperation of each and every individual, with each one of us doing his or her part.
Communities play a critical role in spreading a virus, but also in stopping it. Proper hygiene, in particular washing hands on a regular basis, social distancing and limiting contacts. All this can stop the virus from spreading rapidly.
I am encouraged by the wide-ranging actions taken in Iraq, including in the Kurdistan Region.
We should not panic. But to avoid panic, we cannot afford to be complacent. In recent days we noted that some people are unnecessarily breaking the curfew, or not fully abiding by the instructions. To those, I would like to say: you are endangering yourselves, your families, your loved ones and the community at large.
Mass gatherings should not take place, and this includes sports, cultural events and religious gatherings. And I would like to underline our appreciation for the calls from all religious authorities to follow the instructions and guidance, to stay home and to stay safe.
Public health is the number one priority. And all of us are in this together. All nations, all people. Quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing are nothing to be ashamed of. This is happening all over the world.
The United Nations, with the World Health Organization in the lead, is supporting Iraqi efforts wholeheartedly.
WHO Iraq, in close cooperation and coordination with the authorities in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region, has issued guidelines and advice to the public. It is providing technical support across the country including border and airport management, training of personnel on risks, communication and mass gatherings.
WHO is also part of the government committee established to take national decisions to stop the virus from spreading rapidly. Additionally, it is equipping infection control rooms in Baghdad and Erbil, and supplying test kits and personal protective equipment. We are aware that this still falls short of the needs, but there is a global shortage. And WHO has requested Iraq to be a high priority to allow the country to tap into available resources.
Last but not least: the work of the government and you, the media, is critical, in both: raising awareness and in countering all the fake news and rumours out there.
Thank you so much.
My colleagues and I are open to any questions you may have.

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