UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: WFP to supply food aid until July
ANKARA, 26 March 2004 (IRIN) - The UN World Food Programme (WFP) expects to deliver food aid into Iraq at least until July under a US $900 million agreement signed in January with the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), WFP spokeswoman Mia Turner told IRIN from Cairo.
Some rice and other staples have been delivered this month to the Jordanian port of Aqaba and will be taken on by ship to the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, Turner said, adding that just over half of the 1.6 million mt of commodities due to be delivered under this agreement had already been sourced.
The other main corridor at present is Kuwait, although other neighbouring countries such as Turkey and Syria may also be used. Turner also said that some commodities might also come in through Iraq’s eastern border.
The UN food agency was brought in by the US-led administrators to help the public distribution system with the procurement and transportation of food, given the organisation’s expertise in logistics, Turner said.
The distribution system is used to give food rations to Iraq’s 27 million population.
“After Saddam contracts were renegotiated but a lot of companies couldn’t do it (deliver food aid), so as the WFP is specialised the CPA asked us to help,” she said.
In November 2003, the UN handed over all contracts under the $10 billion a year Oil-for-Food programme to the US-led administration, including an estimated $2 billion in surplus funds from oil revenues.
Under the UN-administered programme, which began in 1996, food and humanitarian aid was paid for with oil revenues. Much of the programme has now been turned over to Iraq's Ministry of Trade.
Part of the WFP’s new role is to help train Ministry of Trade staff in the procurement, logistics and food distribution, the agency spokeswoman said.
The public distribution system estimates that Iraq’s population needs around 450,000 mt of food aid, which should allow the current programme to run until July.
Turner said the WFP will assess whether more is needed beyond this.
Commenting on the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, Turner said that “(WFP international) staff will only return if security is guaranteed.”
The agency currently has a number of local staff on the ground in Iraq.
Turner did not anticipate significant problems with overland deliveries because of the current situation.
What food that is coming into the country at the moment, under the Oil-for-Food programme, is being paid for with left over oil revenues, Maarit Hirvonen, WFP coordinator for the Iraq office in Amman, told IRIN.
"What is (most) important is how long the food is going to last. What we've got is buffer stock," Hirvonen said. "If there is to be a market economy, how quickly can it happen?"
Based on past studies, at least 60 percent of Iraq's population is believed to subsist entirely on the monthly food rations, which include staples such as rice and flour. Another 20 percent or so of the population supplements the ration with food they buy in the market.
Following the fall of the former regime a year ago, markets across the country are overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables and imported goods.
At the same time, the WFP is conducting food market studies in conjunction with the World Bank to determine what Iraqis will need in the future, Hirvonen said. Already, studies show that some families sell some of the food to buy other things they need, she said.
Themes: (IRIN) Food Security
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