The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Iraq: Everyone Now Needs Food Aid

Published on Monday, June 30, 2003 by the Inter Press Service

Iraq: Everyone Now Needs Food Aid
by Ricardo Grassi

ROME -- The war in Iraq has made the entire population of 27 million
dependent on food aid, leaders of aid programs say.

Before the war that the U.S. and Britain launched March 20 to remove the
Saddam Hussein regime, 60 percent of the population had depended entirely on
food aid.

”Today, the lives of 100 percent of the Iraqi population, 27 million people,
depend on the provision of monthly food rations,” UNICEF chief
representative in Iraq Carel de Roy told IPS in a phone interview.

The United Nations WFP (World Food Program) chief representative in Baghdad
Torben Due says the crisis is unprecedented. ”To avoid a food crisis in the
country we have initiated the largest emergency operation in the 40 years
history of the WFP,” he told IPS in an interview on email from Baghdad.

The situation was bad enough before the war. A WFP survey of the southern
and central provinces then showed not only that 60 percent of the population
depends on food aid but that one in five Iraqis were living in chronic
poverty. The results of the survey were announced last week.

Chronic poverty was defined by WFP as conditions in which an individual or a
family cannot meet essential needs of food, water, clothing, shelter, health
and basic education over a long period.

The southern and central regions of Iraq covered by the WFP survey are home
to 22.3 million Iraqis. But the situation was little better in the north.

A report by the international charity 'Save the Children' was quoted in the
WFP survey as saying that most people in the north depended on free food
rations through the public distribution system. ”Most households are
extremely vulnerable to external shocks - they have limited (if any)
capacity to expand to other coping strategies and economic activities,” the
report was quoted as saying.

The WFP now says that ”two months of instability and war have most likely
made their ability to cope with an already deteriorating situation much
worse.” Across the country, it says, vulnerability to poverty, food
insecurity and malnutrition have most likely risen over the past two months.

The war halted income-generating activities for many Iraqis, the WFP report
says, ”as more pressing concerns such as personal safety and survival took
precedence.” The report points out that many shops and private sector
businesses remain shut, and that many government employees have not been
paid for the past few months.

The 1980-88 war with Iran, the two Gulf wars and the economic sanctions
between them, and failing economic policies have impoverished a majority of
the Iraqi people ”and reduced them to relying heavily on free food
 handouts,” says Due.

Carol de Roy says the sanctions empowered Saddam's regime, and weakened the
population. ”There is no question about it,” de Roy says. ”The food issue is
clear evidence.”

The setbacks of the nineties came after considerable progress. A survey
conducted by the University of Harvard in 1991 after the first Gulf War
noted that the percentage of people with access to safe drinking water had
risen from 66 per cent in 1975 to 87 percent by 1987. By that year, 93
percent of the population was covered by free health services.

The sanctions were eased in the late nineties to allow Iraq to buy food
against oil exports. Now again ”in the short and medium term the food needs
will have to be covered through import financed by revenues from the oil
export,” Due says. In the long term, ”Iraq has an important agricultural
potential that could be activated though massive investments in the
agricultural sector.”

Long term solutions need to be based on” a thorough analysis that takes into
consideration the current high level of dependency on food rations,” Due
says. ”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.”

The new Collegial Provisional Authority (CPA, headed by U.S.) that is
responsible for administrative matters, he says, ”is receptive to the points
of view of WFP.”

Food assistance to the Iraqi population is assured for the next five months.
The WFP has received almost 500 million dollars in donation for the food aid
Program The U.S. and Britain, which led the invasion of Iraq are the largest
food donors, Due says.

But disbursement is not easy. ”The security situation is the most serious
concern, as it makes it difficult to operate in some areas of the country,”
he says. The U.S. and British forces controlling Iraq are under increasing
attack from Iraqi opposition forces.

Food supplies are being hampered also by poor communication. The offices of
the Ministry of Trade were destroyed in the war, and this has restricted
communications between Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, Due says.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]