2003, Rome -- Despite a better cereal harvest and the
lifting of economic sanctions, according to a report published
today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the
World Food Programme (WFP), nearly half of the 26.3 million
Iraqis are estimated to be poor and in need of assistance.
The effects of war, economic sanctions and
three years of severe drought (1999-2001) have seriously eroded
the livelihoods base of Iraqis, FAO/WFP said in the food supply
and nutrition assessment mission report.
Currently about 60 percent of the Iraqi population are
unemployed and depend largely on public food rations.
While starvation has been averted, chronic
malnutrition persists among several million vulnerable people,
including some 100 000 refugees and around 200 000 internally
The situation of mothers
and children in central and southern Iraq is of particular
concern. In the northern governorates, acute malnutrition has
been virtually eliminated.
This year's cereal production in Iraq is forecast
at 4.12 million tonnes, 22 percent higher than estimated in
2002. Production increased mainly due to favourable rains in the
North, increased irrigation and timely distribution of
agricultural inputs in the main producing areas.
Cereal imports for 2003/2004 (June/July) are estimated
at 3.44 million tonnes, of which 3.2 million tonnes are likely
to be purchased commercially and 244 000 tonnes are food-aid
To the greatest extent possible,
any additional food aid needs should be procured locally to
support farmer's incomes and local prices, FAO/WFP said.
Recent military and political incidents
have had a limited impact on winter cereal crops, the report
said, but have affected sowing of summer cereal and industrial
crops (cotton, sunflower seeds).
capacity to produce fertilizer nationally has been seriously
reduced. Two fertilizer factories are apparently not working,
which raises the question of where next year's estimated
600 000 tonnes of fertilizers for cereals alone will come from.
Livestock conditions are generally stable
in most parts of the country, having benefited from good
pastures in the north and grain availability.
Water availability and sanitation are major problems
for post-war Iraq. Currently a daily maximum of 70 litres per
person is available to the five million inhabitants of Baghdad
city. The situation is worse in the southern cities.
A substantial flow of resources to
rehabilitate the agricultural sector and the economy as a whole
is required to improve the nutritional status of the Iraqi
population, according to FAO/WFP.
mission recommended that the returns from oil sales be used for
the development of the Iraqi economy through the recently
established Development Fund for Iraq with due consideration
given to the agricultural sector.
Millions depend on food assistance
The report said that currently millions of
Iraqis have no access to food other than through public food
assistance, which is financed through the
significant disruption of the public distribution system would
have a severe negative impact on food access," the
The FAO/WFP mission
recognized the need to continue the public food distribution
system and relief food aid activities for the short-medium term,
because the agriculture sector will need considerable time for
highly subsidized food basket policy must be rethought and
better targeted; it should eventually be gradually phased
out," the report said.
Food safety nets for children and
WFP estimates that 3.5
million people will need supplementary food at a cost of $51
million in 2004. Food supplements are needed for malnourished
children, their family members and pregnant and nursing mothers,
FAO said that substantial
assistance is required to rehabilitate agricultural
infrastructure, including irrigation and local industrial
agriculture, and to revitalize technical support structures and
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570