The Covid-19 pandemic starkly illustrates the state of health care in the Middle East, from the good to the truly wretched. The condition of local health systems has, in turn, offered opportunities to outside powers to boost their influence in the region. And no country in the Middle East offers better opportunity – in terms of size and geo-strategic importance – than Iraq. It is being seized upon.
The pandemic hit Iraq’s already fragile health system like a freight train. After decades of conflict, corruption and mismanagement, the Iraqi health system was on the brink of collapse even before the pandemic. Now, it is in utter turmoil.
Misinformation has spread like a plague, from claims about a locally manufactured therapeutic (not really) to conspiracy theories about the weaponization of the Covid-19 coronavirus (not really, either). They have contrived to create conditions that have allowed Covid-19 to spread through the population beyond the ability of the government to exert any control.
As of mid-September, Iraq had nearly 300,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 8,000 resulting deaths in a population of 39 million. By comparison, Egypt, with a population of 99 million, recorded 101,000 cases and about 5,500 deaths. Crucially, Egypt has managed to suppress the curve and currently is recording about 150 new cases a day. The trajectory of infections in Iraq, however, continues to climb, and new cases number around 4,000 each day.