Infographic: The incidence of COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa

Egyptians, some of them wearing protective masks,  look from the bus windows amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Cairo, Egypt December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Content from the Brookings Doha Center is now archived. In September 2021, after 14 years of impactful partnership, Brookings and the Brookings Doha Center announced that they were ending their affiliation. The Brookings Doha Center is now the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, a separate public policy institution based in Qatar.


In comparison with Europe and North and South America, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has managed to limit the initial spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, there has been significant variation between countries, as one can see in the following data visualization. This graph tracks cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19 relative to total population in a sample of MENA countries. Reported data reflect total confirmed cases per million population from each country between March 2020 and July 2021. Qatar’s high volume of cases, relative to its population, placed it consistently at the top of this group for all of 2020, followed by other Gulf states. In July 2020, however, there was a shift, visible in results from fragile and conflict-afflicted countries like Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. By autumn 2020, second-wave outbreaks had materialized in other countries like Morocco and Tunisia. Jordan’s experience is particularly noteworthy: an early leader in controlling the virus, Jordan witnessed a significant surge in cases in late summer and autumn 2020. Cases have continued to grow in Jordan and Lebanon over 2021, while Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates and Oman have continued to struggle with waves of the virus.

Source: Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, and Joe Hasell, “Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19),” Our World in Data, 2020,

Paul Dyer is a policy analyst with Brookings Doha Center, and Isaac Schaider and Andrew Letzkus are data analysts with the Brookings Doha Center.