Current issues and what the World Food Programme is doing
The World Food Programme’s (WFP) Iraq response helps people affected by the conflict, by delivering emergency food assistance and organising logistics. More information can be found on the Iraq emergency page.
An oil-rich country, Iraq has seen its economic potential constrained by recurring conflicts. In recent years, 3.3 million people have been uprooted and are now internally displaced. The fighting has deepened insecurity, rolled back development and exacerbated vulnerabilities. Many Iraqis have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and in Europe.
Despite adverse conditions, the Iraqi population has grown rapidly to an estimated 36 million, living on a surface area of 437,000 km2 that ranges from mountains to desert. With the world’s fourth largest hydrocarbon reserves, the oil sector dominates the economy. But it too has suffered from the continuing conflict and political disputes, as well as a legacy of underinvestment and collapsing prices. Beset by violence, social disruption and economic hardship, millions of Iraqis are in desperate need of food assistance.
Current issues in Iraq
The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. Most displaced people are living without adequate access to food, water and other essentials. In addition, an estimated quarter of a million Syrian refugees have sought refuge in northern Iraq, placing additional pressure on limited resources. Overall, 2.4 million people require some sort of food assistance in Iraq; some 10 million need humanitarian assistance in general. But pervasive insecurity means access by humanitarian actors is challenging.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Iraq
WFP has been operating in Iraq since 1991. Since April 2014, through emergency operations, we have provided food assistance to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrian refugees forced from their homes by recent violence.
• In the face of mass displacement from major Iraqi cities, such as Mosul and Ramadi, WFP is supporting some 1.5 million people per month in all 18 governorates, including hard-to-reach areas. This takes the form of monthly family food parcels for those with access to cooking facilities; food vouchers that can be redeemed at local shops; and ready-to-eat food rations that provide families on the move with enough food for three days.
• Since July 2012, WFP has been providing food assistance to Syrian refugees who have fled to Iraq. In areas where security and market capacity permits, some 50,000 Syrian refugees are benefitting from monthly food rations and a voucher programme. In 2016, WFP plans to scale up its assistance to reach more than 70,000 Syrian refugees per month.
• In February 2016, WFP began transitioning to cash assistance for families living in areas where functioning markets still exist. The pilot programme has reached 15,000 people so far – both refugees and displaced families – living in the refugee camp established at Akre in Duhok governorate. Cash transfers are useful in areas where people are unable to purchase otherwise available food, and can reduce the costs of food transport and storage. This form of assistance is often preferred by families because it offers choice and access to fresh produce, dairy products and meat. It takes the form of cash payments, bank or mobile phone transfers, or electronic food vouchers.
• During the 2014-15 academic year, a school feeding pilot programme was carried out in the southern governorate of Thi Qar, one of Iraq’s most economically disadvantaged areas. The programme supported 21,000 children, providing them with rations of bread, cheese, milk and a piece of fruit at school. WFP is continuing its cooperation with the Ministries of Health and Education to implement this school feeding programme nationwide. In 2016, WFP plans to assist 120,000 schoolchildren in Iraq through an expanded school meals programme.
• WFP is supporting the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to reform social safety nets for vulnerable groups, as well as supporting the Government-run Public Distribution System. This includes collaborating on capacity building programmes that aim to help Ministry staff target poverty, develop social safety nets, and monitor and evaluate procedures.
• Through a cash-for-assets programme, WFP plans to target unemployment in some of the areas most vulnerable to violence and insecurity. This will provide families with the means to rebuild their lives and facilitate resettlement, while creating employment opportunities and improving their access to food.
World Food Programme partners in Iraq
WFP cannot fight global poverty and hunger alone. These are our partners in Iraq:
- Barzani Charity Foundation
- Civil Development Organization (CDO)
- Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
- Islamic Kurdish League
- Islamic Relief Worldwide
- Iraqi Red Crescent Society
- Iraqi Salvation Humanitarian Organization (ISHO)
- Mercy Corps
- Muslim Aid
- Norwegian Refugee Council
- Save the Children Iraq
Featured Iraq publications
A Situation Report is a concise operational document with latest updates on the World Food Programme's (WFP) response to an emergency. It gives an overview of WFP’s activities and informs the wider humanitarian community and other interested stakeholders about WFP’s response.
Looking for more publications on Iraq? Visit the Iraq publications archive.