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[casi] One in five Iraqis suffers from chronic poverty: Survey

World Food Programme (WFP)
19 Jun 2003

One in five Iraqis suffers from chronic poverty: Survey

BAGHDAD - One in five Iraqis or 4.6 million people suffer from chronic
poverty according to a survey* conducted
by the UN World Food Programme in Southern and Central Iraq.
Frowned upon by the deposed Iraqi regime, the survey, most likely the last
of very few to have been carried out under the rule of Saddam Hussein, was
conducted discreetly in late February and early March in the 15 Iraqi
Southern and Central provinces where an estimated 22.3 million live.

"The survey indicates a high level of chronic poverty and an alarming
dependency on the monthly food rations that were established in Iraq in the
early 1990s. About 13 years of stringent economic sanctions, three wars in
two decades and failing economic policies have impoverished a majority of
the Iraqi people and reduced them to relying heavily on free food handouts,"
said WFP representative in Iraq Torben Due.

WFP had estimated before the war that 60% of the Iraqi population were
entirely dependent on the monthly food rations. This survey shows that even
with free food a large number of Iraqis in the South and Center of the
country remained chronically poor.

"This is a major cause for concern because all those people were found to be
chronically poor even while their basic food needs were met every month free
of charge. Two months of instability and war have most likely made their
ability to cope with an already deteriorating economic situation much

Supported by WFP, the Iraqi Ministry of Trade re-started this vital social
safety net this month. As many as 27 million Iraqis will be able to collect
their monthly rations in June at a nominal fee of Iraqi Dinar 250, about 20
US cents (the market value is estimated at ID 10,000, about US$ 7.7).

Due to the former government's restrictions on collecting data, WFP had to
resort to using its own national staff to collect data on a limited sample.
About 40 Iraqis who have been working for WFP for at least five years in the
surveyed provinces participated in the exercise.

Most of the respondents worked in WFP's Observers Unit, which conducted
nearly 9,000 interviews a month of households benefiting from the Public
Distribution System (PDS) before the war as part of the regular monitoring
of the Oil for Food programme.

"The results should help us in the emerging policy debate on how to reduce
poverty and ensure the basic needs of the Iraqi people. If one in five
Iraqis in the south and center was unable to secure basic needs before the
recent war, it is most likely that this number could increase now with the
economic uncertainty in the private and public sectors," warned WFP
representative to Iraq Torben Due.

The study measured chronic poverty defined as a condition whereby a
household or an individual becomes frequently unable to meet basic needs
including adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, health and basic

WFP is now focused on helping the authorities in Iraq maintain a nation-wide
food distribution system on which 60% of the Iraqi population (or about 16
million people) is totally dependant. "As planners and policy makers look
ahead for long term solutions to food security problems in Iraq, they should
be based on a thorough analysis that takes into consideration the current
high level of dependency on food rations. A solid knowledge base covering
poverty, malnutrition, food security, social welfare and other related
issues will be needed to have an informed dialogue on the best policies to
follow," Due said.

"Vulnerability to poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition have most likely
risen over the past two months," Due said. However, he cautioned, more
elaborate and precise surveys need to be conducted to have a more accurate
picture of the social and economic changes in Iraq.

* "The Extent and Geographic Distribution of Chronic Poverty in Iraq's
Center/South Region" was
authored by Tarek El-Guindy, Hazem Al Mahdy and John McHarris. The full text
is available on WFP website

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2002 WFP fed 72 million
people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally
displaced people.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious
meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at
ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

For more information please contact:

Trevor Rowe, WFP Chief Spokesperson, Tel. +39-06-65132602
Khaled Mansour, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Baghdad, Tel. +1-212-9633010 Ext
Christiane Berthiaume, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Geneva, Tel.
Jordan Dey, Public Affairs Officer, WFP New York, Tel. +1-646-8241112

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