Video: Iraqis left unemployed by coronavirus lockdown rely on food aid to get by

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Iraqi laborers relying on daily wages said on Friday they were struggling to get by after the government imposed a curfew in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The nationwide restrictions imposed on March 17 resulted in the closure of businesses deemed non-essential, leaving many workers without a job and an income.

Raed Ali, who worked in a clothes store in Basra before the curfew began, said his daily wage would cover his family’s expenses, but left him with no savings.

“Since the mall closed, I am sitting at home and have no more work,” he told Reuters. “What really worries me is that we don’t know when it will end. We take it a month at a time.”

On Thursday, Iraqi authorities extended the curfew until April 11. Borders are shut and all travel has been banned, including all inbound and outbound flights from the country’s airports.

Some local human rights organizations and businesses, reacting to what they say is a lack of support from the government, have been delivering food packages to people who no longer have an income.

“We have decided to distribute over 10,000 food packages to families in need and to those who have a limited income because they depend on daily wages,” business owner Amer al-Fiham said.

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So far, Iraq has counted more than 450 coronavirus cases and 40 deaths, most of them in the past week. Some doctors worry that those figures barely scratch the surface of an epidemic that may already be raging undetected across crowded cities.

Iraq’s major cities also saw mass anti-government demonstrations that killed hundreds of people over the past year. State institutions are paralyzed by political deadlock after the government resigned and politicians failed to form a new one.