In comparison with Europe and North and South America, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region managed to effectively limit the initial spread of the COVID-19 virus. 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 on a per million basis in a sample of MENA countries. Reported data reflects total confirmed cases per million population from each country between March and November 2020. Qatar’s high volume of cases, relative to its population, has placed it consistently at the top of this group, followed by other Gulf states. Countries in the Maghreb and the Mashreq initially lagged behind. Since July, however, there has been a shift. This shift was initially visible in fragile and conflict-afflicted countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. By the end of summer, 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 infections per capita in late summer and autumn.
Source: Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, and Joe Hasell, “Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19),” Our World in Data, 2020, https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus.
Paul Dyer is a policy analyst with Brookings Doha Center, and Isaac Schaider and Andrew Letzkus are data analysts with the Brookings Doha Center.