When COVID-19 first became a threat in the Middle East, Turkey grounded flights in and out of northern Iraq because of the virus, making travel difficult. The border between Iran and Iraq also closed, and Iraq’s economy depends heavily on goods from Iran. Measures meant to stop the spread of disease also stop the spread of relief for those who need it most.
Regional lockdowns made movement within and between cities and governorates incredibly difficult. Most checkpoints aggressively required government-issued permissions to pass through the checkpoints and closed government offices made it difficult to acquire them. But our local staff was able to quickly access the necessary permissions through the trust they’ve built in the region. The presence of local staff was critical for a timely and efficient response in this crisis.
Because we already have relationships in this community, closed borders don’t stop us from getting our refugee friends the support they need. And because we have already been present and listening here in these places, we have established an atmosphere of trust that enables us to work on the front lines—overcoming bank shutdowns and other pandemic related challenges—when others cannot.