The situation in Iraq continued to present a challenging and fluid context for WFP’s humanitarian and development work in 2020. While the need for life-saving food assistance to vulnerable populations persisted in many areas, some Iraqi families returned home from camps, and participated alongside host communities in livelihood-oriented activities, supporting families’ self-sufficiency and building resilience to future shocks. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uncertain security environment, WFP applied a dynamic approach aligned with its humanitarian-development mandate, which also facilitated response to the diverse needs of the Iraqi population and Syrian refugees. Despite challenges, including bank liquidity constraints due to the pandemic, WFP successfully supported 898,000 women and men, girls and boys across its life-saving and life-changing activities in Iraq in 2020, the first year of the Country Strategic Plan (2020-2024).
The pandemic engendered mitigation measures and losses in livelihoods, eroding households’ ability to meet basic needs. WFP responded to the emerging needs by reintegrating tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) into relief assistance, who had become food insecure. This allowed WFP to provide emergency food assistance to 371,100 IDPs and refugees.
Under WFP’s resilience-building portfolio, food assistance for community assets creation and rehabilitation (FFA) and dedicated training sessions supported 39,000 people in rural areas. These are a key part of the durable solutions, both for families who return home from camps, and their host communities who continue to require support. New Urban Livelihoods activities were also introduced in response to COVID-19 to help participants get back to work, supporting 42,800 people who had lost sources of income. WFP’s award-winning ‘EMPACT’ (‘Empowerment in Action!) digital skills and English training innovatively moved online due to the pandemic, supporting 10,900 vulnerable youth and their families.
Notably, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, WFP expanded the School Feeding Programme significantly in 2020 in recognition of its multidimensional nature furthering food security, nutrition, education and gender equality objectives, reaching 321,800 children. As a consequence of COVID-19 movement restrictions, schools closed and School Feeding paused from April 2020. During Ramadan, WFP supported 112,800 of the children's family members with ‘take-home’ food baskets.
Despite the pandemic, WFP was able to maintain operational flexibility and readiness to mobilise alternative modalities such as virtual cards, activate contingency plans and diversify the delivery mechanisms for cash-based transfers (CBT). To better meet people’s needs, the use of CBT in 2020 significantly scaled up to nearly 100 percent of assistance, although in-kind food remained in place for contingency use.
WFP continued to work closely with the host and donor governments, UN partners, World Bank and non-governmental organization partners, to ensure ongoing capacity strengthening and complementarity of interventions. Through the work of the WFP-co-led Food Security Cluster, WFP continued to cement its role as an enabler and partner of choice for the wider humanitarian and development community.
From April, WFP pioneered a Hunger Monitoring System of data collection and analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on food security in Iraq, alongside weekly and monthly price and market monitor reports. Together with the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development and World Bank, WFP used the analysis to publish regular joint reports, supporting the government and humanitarian-development actors with decision-making.
WFP also contributed to the development of the United Nations Iraq Socio-Economic Response Plan to COVID-19.
A vital part of WFP’s social protection work in 2020 was devoted to the partnership with the Ministry of Trade (MoT) to digitalise and reform the national Public Distribution System for food rations (PDS). The ‘Tamwini’ (‘My Food Ration’) smartphone application was launched in July, helping families stay home safely and update their data remotely. At MoT's request, the digitalisation initiative continues to expand in 2021.
2020 also began a transformative phase for the mainstreaming of gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive programming for WFP in Iraq. The Country Office began to implement the WFP Gender Transformation Programme, alongside conflict analysis research, to further successfully integrate gender equality, women’s empowerment and conflict sensitivity in all aspects of WFP’s programme of work. WFP continues to champion women in all its activities; women usually constitute half of all participants in its projects. In October, WFP received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of "its efforts to combat hunger, and contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas."