UN World Food Programme

Iraq: Access to Food Improves But Hunger Remains

Rome, 12 November 2008 - Irrespective of its potential wealth, Iraq is a country in turmoil, with an estimated 1.5 million people displaced as a direct result of war and violence. A new survey shows that, although there have been recent improvements in the overall security situation, and although safety nets exist, there remain nearly one million people who are food insecure.

WFP is in Iraq at the request of the Government to provide food assistance to 750,000 of the most vulnerable among the displaced.

Theoretically, Iraq’s Public Distribution System entitles the entire population of 27 million people a monthly food ration. But when people are displaced, they are frequently unable to register in their new place of residence and therefore do not qualify for the PDS.

Accurate picture

To give an accurate picture of food security and vulnerability inside Iraq, WFP has carried out three surveys since 2003. The latest Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (CFSVA) is based on data collected by the Iraqi government in every district of all 18 governorates of Iraq.

A total of nearly 26,000 households were covered by the survey. WFP’s role was to provide expertise in designing the questionnaire, training for the data collectors, analysis of data and compilation of the report.

As far as food security is concerned, the survey found that the numbers of food insecure went down from some four million in 2005 to 930,000. However, an additional 6.4 million people are at risk of becoming food insecure and would do so without safety nets such as the PDS. It also examined malnutrition rates, and access to basic services, such as clean water, power and education.

Targeted food aid

The CFSVA is primarily for the use of Government in setting out strategies and policies to deal with the needs of the most vulnerable sectors of the population. It set out to identify the food insecure, how many of them there are, where they are located, what the causes are of food security in Iraq and to recommend future interventions.

As far as food assistance is concerned, the report recommends targeted food aid for the most vulnerable and food insecure; food for training to teach mothers childcare and nutrition best practices, food for education in the poorest areas, to encourage children to remain in school, with particular emphasis on girls’ attendance; and the scaling up of micronutrient programmes including vitamin A and iron fortification, as well as salt iodisation.

Non-food interventions include capacity building for government institutions to improve their ability to monitor and evaluate food security trends; capacity building for public and private institutions to establish adequate food-based safety nets; working to improve nutrition through appropriate actions in agriculture, rural development, water supply and sanitation, social protection, education and gender and community driven development.