U.N. charts plan to feed Iraqis if war erupts

By David Brough
ROME, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) plans to feed almost a million people in the first few months of any war in Iraq, its chief spokesman said on Friday.

"We are preparing, at least on an initial basis, to deal with approximately 900,000 people. We would have supplies to feed them for about three months," Trevor Rowe told Reuters.

"This is flexible because, depending on the needs, we can triple that to feeding 2.7 million for one month, or 5.4 million for two weeks," he said. "The important thing is to be prepared in case something happens."

He added that if any war continued for some time, WFP, the world's largest food aid agency, might have to feed 10 million people or more.

"We could end up feeding anywhere between five and 10 million people, but it could go higher -- or it could be less," Rowe said. "That's just a rough planning figure right now. The difficulty in these situations is that it is impossible to engage in accurate planning."

Any war in Iraq would worsen hunger as some 60 percent of the country's 24.5 million people already depend on the U.N.-backed oil-for-food programme, Rowe said.

"Any breakdown in the system would have serious consequences, so the important thing for us is to make sure that people continue to be fed."

Emergency food aid would be sent in from surrounding countries, but Rowe declined to say which ones.

He said the Rome-based WFP had readied 5,000 tonnes of high-protein biscuits that do not require cooking and can be used to feed young children by adding water.

Wheat, vegetable oils and pulses would also be sent to hungry Iraqis, Rowe added.

WFP has launched a $7 million appeal to government donors to prepare for food aid distribution in Iraq in the event of war, and the United States has responded with a pledge of $5 million, Rowe said.

He said he could not predict how quickly WFP would be able to move food following an attack because so much would depend on the security situation on the ground.

Aid agencies, gearing up for possible war in Iraq, said on Thursday they were rushing experts and life-saving supplies to the region but needed more money to complete the massive task.

The United States announced it had donated $12.1 million to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR for "humanitarian contingency planning for Iraq."

The UNHCR has forecast that in the event of conflict, 600,000 Iraqis could flee abroad, with about half going to Iran, and the rest to Turkey, Syria and Jordan.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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