The security situation in Iraq remains unstable alongside significant challenges – including political and economic uncertainty, social unrest due to unemployment, eroded public services and persistent low standards of living. The humanitarian situation is still precarious in many conflict-affected areas, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has also slowed development and heightened food insecurity. With the poverty rate reaching 31.7 percent in 2020, Iraq ranks 123 of 189 countries in the 2020 Human Development Index.
There are still 1.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 247,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq. Some families report secondary displacements, as they are forced to return to camps because of security conditions, and the lack of job and livelihood opportunities in their regions of origin.
The assistance provided by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Iraq focuses on saving lives, resilience-building and social protection, supporting the Iraqi Government towards Zero Hunger. Through enhancing social protection, emergency assistance for IDPs and refugees, skill development and work projects for vulnerable communities, WFP is helping the Government of Iraq build people's self-reliance and food security, towards longer-term social cohesion, peace and development.
The first case of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 was recorded in Iraq in February 2020. Given the increasing number of cases reported by the Ministry of Health, WFP and its partners are taking additional measures to safeguard the health and wellbeing of people assisted.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Iraq
WFP supports some 225,000 internally displaced people and 70,000 Syrian refugees with monthly food assistance, mainly in the form of cash transfers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, WFP added 39,000 vulnerable IDPs and refugees to its monthly assistance, supporting them through the crisis.
WFP helps enhance the food security of vulnerable people through restoring or creating key community assets such as irrigation and orchards, and work opportunities such as on climate change mitigation projects, including in the south of Iraq - all complemented with training. WFP is also continuing the award-winning EMPACT “Empowerment in Action” programme, which equips Syrian refugees and vulnerable Iraqi youth with digital and English language skills to help them secure work.
WFP and the Ministry of Trade (MoT) are digitalizing the Public Distribution System for food rations (PDS), Iraq’s biggest social protection programme, reaching all eligible citizens. The new “ePDS” helps people easily and securely collect their rations, saving time for both them and the PDS staff, and avoiding duplication so saving funds. WFP and MoT are rolling out the 'Tamwini' ('My Food Ration') smartphone application, so people can easily and safely update their family information and engage with the PDS while staying home.
WFP and the Ministry of Education run the National School Feeding Programme (NFSP), reaching 321,800 children in 11 governorates across Iraq in 2020. When the schools remained closed due to COVID-19, the children's families received take-home rations, and special training safely door-to-door on hygiene, nutrition and education.
WFP scaled up its assistance to vulnerable people affected by the crisis, adding 39,000 refugees and internally displaced people who receive monthly cash transfers. To contain the spread of the virus, WFP and partners take preventive measures such as maintaining safe distances, using masks and hand sanitisers, and sterilizing frequently-used items in the food distribution areas. Key messages are shared and awareness sessions run with people assisted, and camp shop staff. WFP pioneers new cashless payments, so people can purchase food “contactless” with their mobile phones, which is both easy and hygienic.
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