International Food Assistance for Iraqis is Running Out, And for No Good Reason

Iraq is in the midst of several overlapping crises. It’s a tinderbox that already exploded: A barbaric extremist group controls large swaths of the country; sectarian violence is on the rise; and it’s dangerously hot outside.

It’s a wonder then why the World Food Program would be forced to cut food rations for the Iraqis who need it the most?

You would think that the international community would want to –at the very least — keep the most vulnerable people in Iraq fed. Beyond the pure humanitarian imperative of helping the hungry, empty stomachs do not exactly encourage political stability.

But for lack of funds, the World Food Program announced yesterday that it’s cutting food rations for displaced Iraqi’s even further.

The WFP said it had begun to prioritize available funds for internally displaced people, otherwise known as IDPs, in April once resourcing difficulties became evident. People previously receiving food vouchers had the voucher value reduced to $16 from $26 while the UN agency also halved the size of family food parcels it distributes monthly. Today, the food parcels cover 40 percent of a household’s daily needs instead of 80 per cent.

The overall reductions will now coerce many families to supplement their assistance with store-bought food products. However, according to the WFP’s vulnerability assessments, two in five internally displaced households (40 per cent) do not have enough food or money to shop.

These cuts will affect nearly 1 million Iraqis who depend on the WFP for food assistance. It comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this month from the World Health Organization that it scaled back 84% of its frontline health programs in several provinces of Iraq for lack of funding.

In all, the WFP needs $78 million through the end of the year to reach all Iraqis in need.

Why this matters

The international community has a special moral responsibility to the people of Iraq. The ineptitude of the US-occupation post-Saddam led directly to an outbreak of civil war, from which ISIS eventually emerged. Then, the inability of the international community to keep a lid on the Syria crisis and marshall some sort of peaceful resolution to that conflict led to further destabilization of neighboring Iraq, deepening ethnic divisions within the country.

Now, three and a half million Iraqis are displaced within their own country. Most of these displaced require humanitarian assistance–basic food, shelter, medicines. But the funding to pay for this all has not materialized from donor countries.

To put this in perspective, Congress last year authorized $5.1 billion to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. If just 1.5% of that cost was devoted to the humanitarian relief, then the WFP be fully funded through the year, and not have to cut its rations to 1 million people.

Alas, while there’s $5.1 billion for war, $78 million for humanitarian relief is apparently hard to muster. So, the people of Iraq are destined to suffer even more deeply.