WFP and Iraqi Trade Ministry form partnership to strengthen food distribution capacity

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BAGHDAD - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Iraqi Ministry of Trade (MOT), under which the two parties will work together to improve the supply chain management of the Public Distribution System (PDS), which provides a monthly food ration to millions of Iraqis.

"This is a joint partnership, part of the MOT-led process to improve and strengthen the PDS," said WFP Iraq Country Director Edward Kallon. "WFP, with more than 40 years of experience in international food assistance, can play a key role in helping improve the management of the PDS supply chain."

Under the PDS, every Iraqi, irrespective of income level, is entitled to a monthly food ration for a nominal fee. However, with annual costs running at more than US$4 billion dollars, the Government is looking at ways to reform the system to target only the most vulnerable people in need of such assistance.

While Iraq is potentially a rich country with huge oil deposits, decades of wars and sanctions have led to the collapse of infrastructure and social services, - which has resulted in many people being left without sufficient food or nutrition. A 2008 survey estimated that 930,000 Iraqis were food insecure, with a further 6.4 million vulnerable to food security without the PDS.

The new partnership between WFP and the ministry is part of the Iraqi National Development Plan and Poverty Reduction Strategy, and the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) to strengthen social safety nets for vulnerable groups.

Under its current emergency operation, WFP is providing food assistance to some 1.1 million Iraqis, including malnourished children, pregnant and lactating women, female-headed households, smallholder farmers and internally displaced people. In the past month, WFP has launched a pilot school snacks programme for 172,000 primary schoolchildren in eight of the country's poorest districts.

The MOU was signed in Baghdad by Edward Kallon and the Iraqi Minister of Trade, Dr Safa Al-Deen Alsafi. WFP and the Government of Iraq will work together to mobilize the required resources to support project implementation.

For further information:

Emilia Casella, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564, Mob. +41-792857304

Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-646-5566909, Mob. +1-646-8241112