While hoping that current international efforts to secure a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis bear fruit, WFP is analysing measures and resources required to cope with the possible humanitarian consequences of hostilities in the region.
The agency has been preparing contingency plans to ensure that the most immediately vulnerable Iraqi people who are currently dependent on the food rations of the Oil-for-Food Programme would not go hungry in case of war.
After more than 12 years of economic sanctions, a large part of the Iraqi population is extremely vulnerable. About 60 percent of the population is totally dependent on Oil-for-Food rations and other essential humanitarian supplies.
WFP plans to assist millions of Iraqis, based on different scenarios.
WFP may need to put its plans into action at short notice. In preparation, the agency is already pre-positioning food in the region to help hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who may be immediately affected by the conflict.
Other contingency measures include: augmentation of communications and logistics capacity, assessment and planning and identification of needed staff to deploy at short notice.
The cost of the preparedness effort is estimated at US$7.7 million. WFP this week received a contribution of US$5 million from the United States.
To date, the agency has been relying on emergency reserve funds to support its preparations as well as borrowing from pre-existing stocks for its actual operations in the region. These will need to be replenished.
Iraq: existing WFP operations
WFP has been active in Iraq for over a decade From 1991-1996, the agency provided some US$500 million of relief assistance Existing WFP activities in Iraq are related to the implementation of the Oil for Food programme with other UN agencies
Under this programme, about 500,000 metric tons of food aid are procured, shipped and distributed every month. The continuation of the programme is critical to the well-being of the population WFP monitors food aid distributed by the government in the South and the Centre, while in the North, the agency performs both distribution and monitoring
Malnutrition in Iraq: malnutrition rates have been falling in Iraq over the past two years, but remain high
In the Centre/South, chronic malnutrition stands at 22.1 percent with acute malnutrition set at 5.9 percent
In the northern governorates, chronic & acute malnutrition rates are 11.4 percent and 3 percent respectively WFP provides food aid to 20,000 severely malnourished children and their family members - equivalent to 80,000 people - in the governorates of Basra, Missan and Thi-Qar
Beneficiaries of this project are selected for a cycle of three months. Only those who do not improve their nutritional situation continue to receive food aid in the next cycle. In addition, 9,000 inmates of social institutions are also provided with WFP food rations In the North of Iraq, WFP has supplementary feeding programmes in three governorates
These target 44,000 malnourished children, 41,000 pregnant and lactating mothers and 14,000 hopital patients and residents in social institutions.
This is a summary of what was said by WFP spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at the press briefing, on 7 February 2003, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva
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