BAGHDAD – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has started providing food vouchers to assist half a million Iraqis displaced by the conflict in Iraq. This new scheme empowers recipients to choose their own food and prioritise their own needs.
Thanks to a donation of US$5 million from Japan and a contribution of US$2.2 million from Germany, WFP began distributing the food vouchers in the district of Soran in the governorate of Erbil, reaching an initial group of 500 women and men last week. Distribution of vouchers to a further 1,700 people is set to begin today.
Displaced people suffer from an uncertain future and a loss of control over everyday life. Food vouchers help to restore a sense of normalcy and choice. Recipients will be able to redeem them for food items in 11 designated stores. Each person receives a voucher worth US$26 dollars.
“This is the first time we have received food vouchers and I think it is a good idea to buy our own food and decide what to cook every day,” said 47-year-old Saher Ghanim Salim who escaped Mosul in August and now resides in Soran with relatives. “Knowing that we can choose what we can eat brings back into our lives one thing that we can relate to from the homes that we left behind,” Salim added.
The food vouchers will benefit families who have settled in safer locations where food is available in the market but they cannot afford to purchase it. Within the next three months, WFP plans to distribute food vouchers to half a million displaced Iraqis in the Kurdistan region.
WFP delivers large amounts of food each year, but increasingly provides hungry people with cash and vouchers to buy food for themselves to meet their preferred dietary needs. Food vouchers support the local economy, and strengthen local markets.
“The food vouchers are an effective means of giving internally displaced people access to food, promoting the power of choice into the lives of women and men struggling because of the conflict,” said Jane Pearce, Representative and Country Director of the WFP Office in Iraq.
In Iraq WFP has been assisting Syrian refugees in camps with vouchers since November 2012, injecting almost US$40 million into the local retail economy. WFP also distributes food vouchers to Syrian refugees in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Through this system, the local economies of the five countries have received more than US$500 million since the voucher programmes began in 2012.
In just three months since the outbreak of the crisis that began in Mosul and spread to surrounding cities and governorates, WFP has assisted more than one million displaced people across 18 governorates. Most of the people received food parcels containing essential items such as rice and cooking oil. Others received Immediate Response Rations that include canned food.
Before the latest wave of displacements, WFP was already assisting about 240,000 people displaced by conflict in Iraq’s al-Anbar governorate, as well as more than 215,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria, who are sheltering in Iraq.
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food in emergencies and working with communities to build resilience. In 2013, WFP assisted more than 80 million people in 75 countries.
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Marwa Awad, WFP/Erbil, Mobile +964 915 0764
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