From symptoms to solutions – new local innovation helps Iraqi communities manage Coronavirus concerns

April 28, 2020

Tracking symptoms of Coronavirus and understanding its vast impact have been made easier for Iraqis thanks to a new local platform supported by UNDP Iraq’s Accelerator Lab.

The Corona in Iraq platform was originally developed by local web developer Mustafa Alwan, a member of CS50x-Iraq Developers Union which contains a pool of computer science and programming experts from Harvard University’s CS50 developers’ training program. Alwan designed the platform to support his country’s mission to tackle the spread of COVID19.

When UNDP Iraq’s Accelerator Lab team – whose role it is to identify and upscale locally-designed solutions that attempt to solve a country’s most pressing challenges – discovered Corona in Iraq, the potential to develop it was tangible, present, and exciting. Iraq is one of 60 teams across UNDP’s global network of labs sourcing local solutions to respond to global challenges.

“Absolutely take it to the next level!” was the initial reaction of UNDP Iraq’s Resident Representative, Zena Ali-Ahmad when the Accelerator Lab team pitched the idea. “In Iraq, misinformation about the virus is a huge challenge, and rumors are circulating within the community. Corona in Iraq is an innovative way to quell some of these rumors and provide people with real facts and necessary courses of actions if they feel they may have the virus,” she said.

Stigma associated with COVID-19 is also prevalent in Iraq, with many people refraining from seeking medical advice due to a fear that, if tested positive or if perceived to have the virus, they would be shunned and discriminated against by their communities. “Through a portal that tracks symptoms, users are encouraged to speak up and consult medical professionals if they contain symptoms. This simple action is extremely important as we support the Government of Iraq in their efforts to limit the spread of the virus across the country,” adds Ms. Ali-Ahmad.

Key features of Corona in Iraq:

Raises awareness about the symptoms and risks of COVID-19 and dispels rumors about the virus.

Corona in Iraq draws from the most up-to-date information and data from the World Health Organization (WHO). It contains localized information including statistics on the number of reported cases and fatalities in Iraq. It also provides information on how to stay hygienic and healthy in everyday life. A partnership with UNICEF will soon allow information specific to Iraqi youth, with an opportunity for young people to submit questions about the virus. This critical feature comes at a time when many young people are feeling anxious due to the strict curfews imposed across the country, limiting their schooling and social life.

Tracks symptoms to encourage people to seek medical advice

Stigma can be heightened by insufficient knowledge about how COVID-19 is transmitted and treated, and how to prevent infection. By using Corona in Iraq, users are able to track their symptoms through a multiple-choice questionnaire containing 10 simple questions. This feature fosters a testing culture, encouraging users to speak to a health professional if they are experiencing symptoms, which ultimately helps to prevent stigma associated with the virus.

Geographical scanning of COVID-19 hotspots

Also included on the platform is a geographical scanning feature which maps out the geographical spread of the virus across the entire country and the most affected areas that require increased support, such as sterilization and fumigation. This information helps government agencies effectively respond to the virus.

UNDP Iraq’s response to COVID-19

The Corona in Iraq platform is part of UNDP’s US$25 million response package which supports the Government of Iraq to manage the coronavirus pandemic by helping to provide personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, building isolation wards to effectively manage cases, boost the testing capacity of hospitals, and undertake critical assessments to inform Iraq’s post-COVID-19 recovery strategy.

Corona in Iraq’s domain name, was provided by the Commission on Media and Communications under the Government of Iraq’s Ministry of Communications.