The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced the start of a US$126 million emergency operation to provide food assistance to more than one million displaced Iraqis who are unable to meet their basic food needs due to the continuing violence in Iraq.
An increasing number of displaced people cannot meet their food needs
Stefano Porretti, WFP Iraq Country Director
The one-year operation will run until December 2008 and assist 750,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqis displaced within the country, as well as more than 360,000 Iraqis who have fled to Syria.
“We are facing a growing humanitarian crisis as a result of the continuing violence in Iraq. An increasing number of displaced people cannot meet their food needs and therefore require more help. We hope that the food assistance we provide can help avert a much bigger crisis,” WFP Iraq Country Director Stefano Porretti said.
In Iraq, WFP will supply a complementary food package, consisting of wheat flour, white beans and vegetable oil, to the most vulnerable internally displaced persons (IDPs).
These are people who are unable to get their food rations provided under Iraq’s Public Distribution System (PDS) due to various difficulties including the transfer of their ration cards to their new place of residence.
The 750,000 are the most vulnerable among an estimated 2.2 million IDPs in Iraq, many of whom are now living with host families, in abandoned buildings or in poorly supported camps.
In response to this crisis, the Government of Iraq and a number of NGOs have started providing limited basic assistance, including food to the IDPs. But regular additional support is required to complement this assistance.
WFP’s assistance is not intended to replace the government food rations and will phase out as soon as the Government absorbs the IDPs into the PDS.
In Syria, WFP will provide monthly food rations, consisting of rice, vegetable oil and lentils, initially to 155,000 needy Iraqis, with the aim of reaching about 360,000 by the end of 2008.
Syria, which has up until recently provided shelter to virtually all that have arrived at the border, is home to over 1.5 million Iraqis – many of whom have no savings, no income and no means of support.
“The needs of Iraqis in Syria are mounting. Many have depleted their meagre resources and cannot cope with the rising costs of living. They desperately need humanitarian help,” WFP Syria Country Director Pippa Bradford said.
In a recent UN assessment, conducted in collaboration with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, about a third of Iraqi respondents said they skipped one meal a day to feed their children, while 60 percent said they were buying less expensive foods, often less nutritious, to cope with rising prices.
The emergency operation will be implemented in close cooperation with the respective Governments as well as the UN agencies and other partners. Priority will be given to local and regional purchases of food whenever possible.