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Published:January 3rd, 2008 06:34 EST
1 million displaced Iraqis

1 million displaced Iraqis

By SOP newswire

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today launched $126-million year-long emergency operation to feed more than 1 million displaced Iraqis who are unable to meet their basic needs due to the violence wracking the country.

“We hope that the food assistance we provide can help avert a much bigger crisis," WFP Iraq Country Director Stefano Porretti said. “We are facing a growing humanitarian crisis as a result of the continuing violence in Iraq. An increasing number of displaced people cannot meet their food needs and therefore require more help."

Some 750,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqis displaced within the country will benefit from the programme, as will more than 360,000 others who have fled to Syria.

In Iraq, WFP will supply a complementary food package, consisting of wheat flour, white beans and vegetable oil to internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are unable to get rations under Iraq’s Public Distribution System (PDS) due to various difficulties including the transfer of their ration cards to their new place of residence.

The 750,000 are the most vulnerable among an estimated 2.2 million IDPs, many of whom now live with host families, in abandoned buildings or in poorly supported camps. WFP aid is not intended to replace government food rations and will phase out as soon as the Government absorbs the IDPs into the PDS.

In Syria, WFP will provide monthly food rations, consisting of rice, vegetable oil and lentils, initially to 155,000 needy Iraqis but with the aim of reaching about 360,000 by the end of 2008. Syria, which has up until recently provided shelter to virtually all those who have arrived at the border, is home to over 1.5 million Iraqis, many of whom have no savings, no income and no means of support.

“The needs of Iraqis in Syria are mounting. Many have depleted their meagre resources and cannot cope with the rising costs of living. They desperately need humanitarian help," WFP Syria Country Director Pippa Bradford said.

In a recent UN assessment, conducted in collaboration with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, about a third of Iraqi respondents said they skipped one meal a day to feed their children, while 60 per cent said they were buying less expensive foods, often less nutritious, to cope with rising prices.

The emergency operation will be implemented in close cooperation with the respective Governments as well as UN agencies and other partners. Priority will be given to local and regional purchases of food whenever possible.