Rome Newsroom, May 15, 2020 / 06:10 am
The number of people in need of help with basic necessities in Iraq, already in the millions, is expected to rise greatly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Catholic priest working in the country.
“The COVID-19 outbreak in Iraq and the mitigation measures imposed by public health and security authorities have had ramifications on almost all aspects of public and family life and disrupted the economy,” Fr. Joseph Cassar, S.J., said during a press conference May 15.
Cassar, who works for the Jesuit Refugee Service, spoke via video connection from Erbil, Iraq, during a Vatican press conference on Pope Francis’ message for the 2020 World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
He said that at the beginning of 2020 an estimated “4.1 million persons in Iraq were in need of humanitarian assistance,” out of a population of 38 million.
“This figure is set to rise sharply since already vulnerable households will increasingly be unable to meet even their most basic needs and are already resorting to negative coping strategies that will deplete their existing scarce resources and push them deeper into debt,” he stated.
Cassar explained that in Iraq one of the grave problems of the last several decades has been the displacement of people from their homes due to war.
The priest said he works regularly with people who were displaced in Iraq when the Islamic State took control of large parts of the country in 2014: “Almost six years later, there continue to be close to 1.4 million IDPs [internally displaced persons] in Iraq. That would be a sizable city, by any standard,” he noted.
Being displaced within their own country means these people are often overlooked, he said.