This study aimed to determine the opportunities of and barriers to communicable diseases surveillance system (CDSS) during the COVID-19 pandemic and the extent to which the disease integrated into the CDSS in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Study design

A descriptive qualitative approach was applied.


We conducted seven semi-structured interviews and seven interviewee in a focus group discussion (FGD) with purposefully identified Key Informants (KI) from June to December 2020. All interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. We adopted a mixed deductive-inductive approach for thematic data analysis, facilitated by using MAXQDA20 software for data management.


Although the CDSS was considered appropriate and flexible, the COVID-19 was interpreted not to be integrated into the system due to political influence. The main concerns regarding core and support activities were the lack of epidemic preparedness, timeliness, and partial cessation of training and supervision during the pandemic. The existence of reasonable surveillance infrastructure, i.e., trained staff, was identified as an opportunity for improvement. The main challenges include staff deficiency, absence of motivation and financial support for present staff, scarce logistics, managerial and administrative issues, and lack of cooperation, particularly among stakeholders and surveillance staff.


Our findings revealed that the CDSS in the Kurdistan region requires substantial enhancement in epidemic preparedness, strengthening human resources, and logistics. the system can be developed by fostering meaningful intersectoral collaboration. We advocate that the health authorities and policy-makers prioritise the surveillance and effective management of communicable diseases.


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