WFP steps up contingency planning for Iraq

News and Press Release
Originally published
WFP needs US$23.5 million to build up food stocks in readiness for the humanitarian consequences of the potential conflict in Iraq.
Amman, March 12 - WFP has stepped up efforts to ensure it is prepared for the humanitarian consequences of possible hostilities in Iraq.

The agency has asked donors for US$23.5 million to pre-position enough food for the needs of two million people for one month.

This initial contingency plan, which includes US$16 million for 32,000 metric tons of food commodities, would cover the initial phase of a conflict, when WFP would need to help refugees, the malnourished and vulnerable.

To date, the agency has stored enough food to last two million people for one month.

However, just US$7.5 million has been donated - US$5 million from the United States, US$1.6 million from the UK, US$578,000 from Denmark and US$326,797 from Canada - and the world's largest food aid organisation is concerned at the international community's' reluctance to contribute to contingency planning.

The agency remains confident it will be ready, but the slow donor response sets a worrying precedent for a crisis likely to generate enormous humanitarian needs. It is estimated most Iraqi's have only six weeks of food supplies in reserve.

WFP's contingency plan for a conflict envisages feeding at least 10 million people within weeks of its outbreak - an operation that would require massive donor support amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

The food component of the United Nations Oil-for-Food programme, which currently allows Iraq to export oil and use the proceeds to provide basic necessities, costs over a billion US dollars every six months.


Over a decade of economic sanctions has left almost 60 percent of Iraq's population dependent on the Oil-for-Food programme for their entire food supply. One million children below the age of five are chronically malnourished.

Under the terms of the programme, some 25 million Iraqi's receive a monthly food ration made up of imported commodities purchased by the Iraqi Government using funds from oil sales under UN observation.

In the aftermath of the potential crisis, WFP hopes that the food aid pipeline currently used will continue to function, possibly under a revised UN resolution which takes into account the developing situation:

North Iraq: WFP implements the Oil-for-Food programme on behalf of the Government in the three northern governorates of Dahuk, Sulaymaniyah and Erbil, transporting, handling and distributing 36,000 metric tons of food and non-food commodities to 3.6 million people per month.

The agency also uses Oil-for-Food funds to supplement general food rations in northern Iraq through a Nutrition Programme, which targets some 634,000 vulnerable women children and elderly persons (see gallery).

Centre/South Iraq: the government is responsible for distributing a monthly food ration to 22 million people in the centre/south. Together with other UN agencies, WFP helps implement the Oil-for-Food programme by monitoring the fair distribution of humanitarian supplies.

As the lead agency for the Food Sector, WFP observers monitor the efficiency, adequacy and equity of the Public Distribution System.

UN Oil-for-Food Programme: the terms

  • The United Nations Oil-for -Food Programme was initiated in 1996 following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 986, allowing Iraq to export oil and use the proceeds to arrest the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Iraq, in particular with regard to nutrition and health

  • Under the Oil-for-Food Programme, all revenue from sales of Iraqi oil is put into an escrow account managed by the UN, which is then used to buy food and humanitarian supplies for the Iraqi people

  • The programme is implemented in six month phases, renewed upon agreement by the UN Security Council and the government of Iraq

  • US$1,275 million has currently been allocated for the purchase of food and non-food commodities

    Under the current terms, more than 430,000 metric tons of food are procured, shipped and distributed every month

WFP in Iraq: useful background
  • WFP Regular Operation: as well as helping to implement the UN Oil-for-Food programme, WFP also implements a regular operation in Iraq

    This provides food aid to 20,000 severely malnourished children and their families - equivalent to 80,000 people in the governorates of Basra, Missan and Thi-Qar

    This operation also provides food rations to 9,000 inmates of social institutions, such as hospitals and orphanages

  • Staff: as part of its contingency planning, WFP has increased staff members deployed in the region to about 126 in and around Iraq
  • Monthly food ration: the monthly food basket currently distributed through the Oil-for-Food Programme is composed of wheat flour (9 kg), rice (3 kg), sugar (2 kg), tea (0.2 kg), pulses (1.5 kg), vegetable oil (1.5 kg), salt (0.15 kg), dried whole milk (1 kg) and detergent (0.5 kg) & sopa (0.25 kg) as non-food items

    Children under the age of one receive a monthly ration of infant formula (3.6 kg) and weaning cereal (0.8 kg).