IOM Iraq Leverages Mobility Data to Better Assess COVID-19 Impact

Erbil – Like parents everywhere, Iraqis are deeply concerned about their children’s education and the financial impact of COVID-19. A new IOM survey illuminates these everyday concerns and provides clear guidance on social attitudes in Iraq that will aid humanitarian actors working to address dire needs.

As of 26 April, 1,763 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 86 deaths had been reported in Iraq. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq has just completed a study analysing healthcare services, public awareness levels, access to services, movement restrictions and the overall economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country.

Data for the study was collected by the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) in 401 sub-districts across Iraq’s 18 governorates. The data collection began in early April, with IOM Iraq’s Rapid Assessment and Response Teams conducting phone interviews. IOM uses a well-established network of key informants (KIs) who include community leaders, mukhtars, local authorities and security forces.

Asked what these Key Informants judged their top three concerns in the wake of COVID-19's arrival, impacts most commonly feared were a delay in the school year (reported by 89 per cent of KIs), followed by a loss of livelihoods (81 per cent) followed by the overall financial impact (44 per cent).

At the national level, the situation relating to employment is severe. Informants in 68 per cent of subdistricts reported that most people in their areas have lost their jobs. This result is especially acute in the Anbar governorate, Basrah and Dahuk governorates. At the same time, under five per cent of KIs located in Baghdad and Ninewa reported that most people in their subdistrict are working from home and are still receiving their salaries.

Overall, the three groups most likely to report being impaired are day labourers, followed by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the elderly. In 73 per cent of subdistricts, however, KIs reported that provisions are being made to assist the most impacted groups, with assistance mainly coming from host communities, followed by the national government and local government.

“The findings of this study will improve our understanding of how the evolving COVID-19 situation is impacting daily life,” said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Gerard Waite. “A solid evidence base will better inform our response to this crisis, in support of migrants, internally displaced persons, host communities and other vulnerable populations.”

The data also show that most public healthcare clinics are open and accessible across the country but residents of Thi Qar, Basrah and Missan governorates may have greater trouble accessing healthcare services when needed. Private clinics and hospitals are much less accessible at the national level, reportedly being closed in 43 per cent of subdistricts.

Following governmental orders to restrict movement, these findings confirm that schools and most government services are closed throughout the country. Psychosocial support services are also largely closed or otherwise unavailable.

Government-enforced curfews are reportedly well respected across the country, with KIs in 76 per cent of all sub-districts reporting that most Iraqis stay at home and respect the curfew. However, there are some governorates where the curfew orders are not being well respected. This is a concern in Baghdad, where KIs in only 15 per cent of subdistricts reported that the majority respect the curfew and stay home.

“During these uncertain times, when data about the impact of the pandemic are scarce, this study has already given us some indications about the current state of available services, as well as the most common preoccupations among diverse Iraqi communities,” said Rose Marie Guevremont, IOM Iraq DTM Programme Coordinator.

“There are similarities and differences to be noted between governorates, which confirms that a targeted approach should be prioritized. As we continue to develop our short, medium- and long-term response plans, this kind of information will be crucial.”

All information related to the study is available on a new COVID-19 dashboard hosted on the DTM Iraq website, along with the dataset and a summary of the main findings.

For more information please contact IOM Iraq’s Public Information Unit, Tel: +964 751 402 2811, Email: