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Covid-19 further deepens Iraq's woes: UN envoy

Covid-19 further deepens Iraq's woes: UN envoy

The Covid-19 pandemic has further aggravated Iraq's already existing economic, social and political challenges, said a top UN envoy.

Poverty has increased by over 10 per cent in recent months, and a third of Iraqis now live below the poverty line, and two out of five suffer multiple deprivations in accessing basic social services and rights, Xinhua news agency quoted Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Iraq, as saying.

Food consumption is now insufficient for over 3 million Iraqis, due to reduced purchasing power rather than scarcity.

More than 11 million school and university students across Iraq have seen their studies disrupted.

Gender-based violence has alarmingly doubled, amid dwindling options for victims to seek assistance and find shelter, she told the Security Council in a briefing.

Hennis-Plasschaert, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, called for a simplified system that enables currently immobilized humanitarian actors and supplies to rapidly reach people in need, as well as protection of humanitarian actors.

The economic situation is dire with an expected GDP contraction of 9.7 per cent.

Oil revenues, severely affected by a steep crash in oil prices, have nearly halved. The private sector has been particularly impacted by job losses and income reduction.

Non-oil GDP growth is decelerating in a country that badly needs economic diversification, she said.

Corruption in Iraq remains endemic, and its economic cost untold as it continues to steal desperately needed resources from the Iraqis, eroding investor confidence, she warned.

The Iraqi government recognizes these challenges and has made economic and financial reform a priority. But the political class must come together as one, prioritizing the country's interests and protecting the vulnerable, according to the envoy.

"So far, however, we have seen too little of this spirit.".