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[casi] World Food Programme Warns of a Major Humanitarian Crisis

The below article is worth a complete and thorough reading.  There are
several strong quotes regarding civilian vulnerability from Torben Due, the
World Food Programme's (WFP) chief representative in Iraq.

Source: Samia Nakhoul, "U.N. Warns of Food Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq",
Reuters, 25 February 2003,;jsessionid=1STEK0MS3Y0FGCRBAEOCFFA?type=worldNews&storyID=2283314


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said Tuesday a
U.S.-led invasion of Iraq might disrupt government food handouts to millions
of sanctions-hit Iraqis and lead to a wide-scale humanitarian crisis.

"There is a very substantial part of the population dependent on the food
distribution, and therefore if the system breaks down there will be a major
humanitarian crisis," Torben Due, WFP's representative in Iraq told Reuters
in an interview.

"The conflict can potentially lead to a large scale humanitarian
crisis...Something should be done to avoid this crisis," he added.

Due said the majority of Iraqis, impoverished by 12 years of U.N. sanctions
and with a large proportion already suffering from malnutrition, solely
depend on the government food handouts every month and could be primary

"If that system stops functioning, we will have a very sustainable part of
the population that will not be able to go out and buy food and eat because
their income is so little," he said.

Iraq's 25 million population still live under United Nations trade sanctions
imposed on Baghdad after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and face the threat of
a U.S.-led war if Baghdad fails to disarm under U.N. resolutions.

Due said while WFP and other U.N. agencies are still hoping for a peaceful
settlement to the standoff between the United States and Iraq, they have
been preparing contingency plans "for the worst case scenario."


He said WFP has contingency plans to provide assistance to 4.9 million
people for a period of six months and it might provide help for 10 million
but would not be able to substitute the government distribution system.

"It is impossible to establish an alternative to the current Iraqi
government distribution system. It is a very effective system. Every citizen
in Iraq gets the food rations regularly," Due added. "So what we will be
doing is to support and supplement the system not to replace it."

U.N. agencies have already positioned hundreds of tons of relief supplies in
the region, including medicines, nutritional supplements for children and
water equipment as part of a broader U.N. effort to be ready for a
humanitarian crisis.

Girding itself for a U.S.-led war, the Iraqi government has distributed food
rations to Iraqis that could last until July.

Due said many households would have enough food but not the poor, who
normally sell part of their rations because they are their main source of
income, to cover other needs.

Under an oil-for-food program, which started in 1996, Iraq is allowed to
sell unlimited quantities of oil to buy food, medicine and other
humanitarian needs to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people.

U.N. relief officials said Iraq distributes 450,000 tons of food every month
and it would be quite impossible and very expensive to airlift food supplies
in such quantities.

The rations include wheat, flour, sugar, rice, milk powder, tea, salt,
detergents, soap, beans, lentils and cooking oil. The basket is 2,470
calories a day but does not include fruit, vegetables, or meat.

Due said a new war would result in infrastructure breakdowns, including
water supplies and electricity, and the outbreak of disease. Malnourishment,
already high among children under five, is also expected to increase.

"The situation today in Iraq is not like 13 years ago, the coping mechanism
of the Iraqi people is much less than it was 13 years ago, therefore any
interruption in this oil-for-food program will have a serious effect on the
humanitarian situation."


Nathaniel Hurd
NGO Consultant on United Nations' Iraq policy
Tel. (Mobile): 917-407-3389
Fax: 718-504-4224
Residential/Mailing Address:
90 7th Ave.
Apt. #6
Brooklyn, NY  11217

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