WFP is gearing up for potentially the largest humanitarian operation in its history.
With the majority of the Iraqi population set to run out of food in less than six weeks, the cost of covering their basic food needs could amount to over one billion US dollars.
To date, WFP has received about US$44 million from various donors, including US$40 million from the United States. This has allowed the agency to secure sufficient food to cover the needs of two million people for one month.
The current level of funding sets a worrying precedent for a crisis likely to generate enormous humanitarian needs.
The level of needs will vary according to the ongoing conflict's intensity & duration as well as the post-war state of Iraq's infrastructure.
But even before the conflict, most Iraqi's were already heavily dependent on monthly food rations and the situation is unlikely to improve over the coming weeks.
A final document setting the needs for WFP's humanitarian operation in the region will be completed in the next few days.
The WFP appeal for funding will then be issued as part of the overall United Nations' appeal.
Hundreds of thousands of metric tons of food will have to be ordered within days, with WFP needing to quickly place orders for food, ships and trucks.
WFP plans to launch a phased series of humanitarian operations to ensure the Iraqi people receive their basic food needs throughout the crisis.
In the initial four week phase of the conflict , WFP estimates that about 2.1 million people may require emergency assistance. This covers a potential flow of Iraqi refugees into neighbouring countries and as many cross-border operations as possible to help people inside Iraq.
Within four to six weeks, WFP may be called upon to sustain the monthly food rationing system in Iraq.
After 12 years of economic sanctions, this distribution system offers a lifeline for the majority of Iraqi's; WFP might be called upon to assist the entire population of Iraq, about 27 million people.
It is hoped that after four months providing assistance for the entire population, Iraq would be able to launch its own food rationing system and WFP could scale down its operation.
At that stage, WFP could focus on a potential five million refugees sheltering outside Iraq as well as displaced and vulnerable populations inside the country.
PREPOSITIONING FOOD AID: WAREHOUSE UPDATE
Jordan: WFP is moving a portable warehouse to Al-Ruwayshid near Jordan's borders with Iraq. It will provide storage space for up to 400 metric tons of food.
Some five tonnes of High Energy Biscuits are already stored at Al-Ruwayshid, ready for distribution by UNHCR if necessary to incoming refugees. This will cover the needs of 10,000 people for one day.
Turkey: trucks loaded with WFP food aid were recalled to Gazi Antep warehouse on Thursday after Turkey closed its borders with Iraq.
Although WFP has no reports of Iraqi refugees crossing into Turkey, the agency continues to store food to meet potential needs
An initial consignment of some 6,244 tonnes of wheat flour is set for loading onto trucks ready for transfer to the Gazi Antep warehouse over the weekend.
WFP is also storing food in Silope in southeast Turkey - some 50 tonnes of High Energy Biscuits will be delivered to Silope over the next few days.
WFP in Northern Iraq: status
According to the latest updates from WFP staff in northern Iraq, the agency's work in the northern governorates of Dahuk, Sulaymaniyah and Erbil has effectively stopped.
WFP implements the Oil-for-Food programme on behalf of the Iraqi Government in the three northern governorates.
This involves transporting, handling and distributing 36,000 metric tons of food and non-food commodities to 3.6 million people each month.
In addition to managing the general food distribution system, WFP also uses Oil-for-Food funds to supplement general food rations in northern Iraq through a Nutrition Programme.
This targets some 634,000 vulnerable women children and elderly persons through a series of projects: supplementary feeding, school feeding, income generation activities.
The dwindling supplies and deteriorating security situation could bring the Nutrition Programme to a halt very soon.
The Programme has played a role in the the improved nutritional situation in northern Iraq.
This is a summary of what was said by WFP spokesperson Khaled Mansour - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at the press briefing, on 21 March 2003, in Amman, Jordan
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