By John Lee.
The World Bank has approved a new US$100 million project to scale up Iraq's health sector response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Iraq COVID-19 Vaccination Project will support the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations to priority population groups and strengthen the institutional systems needed to enable the safe and effective distribution and use of COVID-19 vaccine at scale.
It aims to help the country procure COVID-19 vaccines, improve its capacity to manage health care waste, and raise public awareness on the importance of vaccination against the virus.
The project builds on existing support the World Bank and other development partners have given the Government of Iraq for its COVID-19 response under the Iraq Recovery, Reform, and Reconstruction Fund (I3RF) and the Emergency Operation for Development Project.
Iraq has been one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, recording almost 2 million COVID-19 cases and more than 21,000 deaths to date.
The government began its COVID-19 vaccination campaign in March 2021 and has been able to increase coverage rapidly in the past month. More than 7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with about 11% of the population having received the first dose and 7% fully immunized with two doses.
A comprehensive, well-coordinated vaccination campaign is key to a country's future recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its economy and public health. The new project will play a critical role in ensuring affordable, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in Iraq, extending coverage to 3 million of the country's population.
"Improved access to vaccination is needed to limit the spread of the disease and lessen the burden on the already weak health system in Iraq," said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. "The new project will support Iraq in its acquisition and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, which are essential to protect lives, enable the country to reopen safely, and kickstart economic recovery."
The Iraq COVID-19 Vaccination Project falls under the COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Program (SPRP), using a Multiphase Programmatic Approach (MPA) that was approved by the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors in April 2020, as well as additional financing agreed to last October. It includes a I3RF grant for vaccine delivery.
The I3RF was founded in partnership with the Government of Iraq in 2018 and is funded by Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and Sweden. It provides a platform both for financing and strategic dialogue for development and reconstruction, with a strong focus on targeted national reforms and public and private investment in socio-economic recovery and reconstruction. The fund seeks to be a strategic platform for development coordination and dialogue, and it aims to support the climate change agenda of the country, gender equality, peace building, and citizen engagement.
World Bank financing will complement activities conducted by other development partners, filling in critical gaps to ensure the deployment of vaccine is successful. The World Bank is committed to continue supporting Iraq's efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the resilience of its health system to future shocks.
(Source: World Bank)