3 October 1997


An FAO/WFP Food Supply and Nutrition Assessment Mission visited Iraq between 9 June and 8 July 1997 with the main objective of assessing the current food supply and nutrition situation, particularly in the context of the recently implemented Security Council Resolution (SCR) 986. The Mission followed a similar FAO/WFP assessment in 1995 and based its evaluation on discussions with Government Ministries and Departments, UN System Organizations, bilateral agencies and NGOs and on field visits throughout the country.

Prior to the Gulf war in 1990, Iraq had one of the highest per caput food availabilities in the region, due to its relative prosperity and capacity to import large quantities of food, which met up to two-thirds of food requirements. The imposition of UN sanctions in August 1990 have, however, significantly constrained Iraq’s ability to earn foreign currency needed to import sufficient quantities of food to meet needs. As a consequence, food shortages and malnutrition became progressively severe and chronic in the 1990s. Widespread starvation was avoided due to an effective public rationing system, which provided minimum quantities of food to the population.

In 1995, concerned at the deteriorating food situation in Iraq, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 986, the oil-for-food deal, which permits Iraq to export limited quantities of oil to finance imports of food and other essential humanitarian needs. Under the agreement, in the first six-month period starting 10 December 1996, the Government was permitted to sell up to U.S.$ 2 billion of oil, out of which U.S.$ 805 million could be used for food imports and U.S.$ 44 million for urgently needed agricultural inputs. The Security Council approved a six-month extension on 8 June 1997 to cover the period until 8 December 1997. The Distribution Plan for phase II was approved by the Secretary-General on 4 August.

Although there has been some improvement in the overall food supply situation following the implementation of SCR 986, malnutrition still remains a serious problem throughout the country and the Mission widely observed cases of marasmus and kwashiorkor. Moreover, although food rations under SCR 986 will provide a significant proportion of overall energy and protein needs, the provisions are low or deficient in a number of other nutrients, particularly Vitamins A and C which are almost zero and calcium, zinc, riboflavin and Vitamin B6, which are all less than 40 percent of needs. For a more balanced diet, the quality of protein is also low which is to be expected from a ration based heavily on cereals. To supply these nutrients, therefore, the diet should be diversified, with foods like fruits, vegetables and animal products. These products are at present not included in the rations under SCR 986. In addition, fortification of SC 986 food commodities, particularly of wheat flour, should also be considered and implemented as soon as possible. Up to May 1997, SCR 986 offered to families with infants under one year, the possibility to choose between a monthly ration of 2.7 kg of infant formula or an adult ration. Since May 1997, only infant formula is available. The Mission recommends that the choice to accept infant formula or a general ration should be maintained to protect breast-feeding practices. 000 tons of red meat, 212 000 tons of poultry meat, 62 000 tons of fish and 1 078 million eggs, as well as adequate quantities of fruits and vegetables which have not been quantified

There is now concern that emergency assistance to vulnerable groups might be curtailed due to widespread perception amongst donors that malnutrition problems have been solved following the implementation of SCR 986. On the contrary, the mission observes that the need for vulnerable group feeding remains essential, as the SCR 986 basket does not meet the special nutritional food needs of vulnerable groups such as malnourished children. In addition to an overall improvement of the food supply situation, the Mission therefore recommends continued donor support for feeding programmes for selected vulnerable groups.

The agriculture sector has deteriorated significantly in the 1990s, due to a lack of investment and shortage of essential inputs. Against this background, the Mission concludes that while full and effective implementation of SCR 986 will undoubtedly ease immediate food supply difficulties, sustainable improvement in the nutritional well-being of the population will require a substantial flow of resources into rehabilitation of the agriculture sector and the economy as a whole. Special attention should be given to actions designed to stimulate the production of animal products, fruits and vegetables, as well as to ensure the continuation of an adequate economic incentive for producers of the foods provided under SCR 986. In light of this, the allocation of U.S.$ 94 million [/ U.S.$ 44 million and U.S.$ 50 million allocated under the first and the second Distribution Plans respectively.] / for imports of urgently needed agricultural inputs in 1997, is considered by the Mission to be grossly inadequate in comparison to rehabilitation and investment needs in the sector.

Perhaps the most far-reaching recommendation for both agriculture and nutrition concerns the need for economic rehabilitation and development throughout the whole country. Unless increased purchasing power is generated and greater investment is made in agriculture, additional and necessary high-quality proteins and bio-available micro-nutrients will be beyond the means of many, and nutritional problems will persist, despite the improved ration under SCR 986.

Of major importance is the severe deterioration of the water and sanitation system in Iraq. Water availability in its widest sense involving drinking water, irrigation, water-logging, salinity and sewage disposal is absolutely fundamental to the future of agricultural productivity and health of the population. It is recommended that high priority be given to sustainable rehabilitation of the water and sanitation system, otherwise water-borne diseases, including nutritional marasmus, will remain a major problem despite improved food availability.




2.1 Macro-economic situation

The economy was dominated by the oil sector from the early 1950s until the cessation of exports in 1990 under the UN sanction regime. In 1989, the contribution of oil to GDP was 61.3 percent, whilst that of agriculture was around 5 percent. The average annual rate of growth of GDP was reported to be 4.4 percent for the period 1965-73, rising thereafter to approximately 10.5 percent until the beginning of the war with the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1980. In 1981 a serious decline in GDP set in as austerity measures were introduced due to war with Iran and the economy contracted in real terms in the two subsequent years. The latter half of the 1980s was characterised by erratic growth as oil output fluctuated and the oil price recovered. The Gulf war and UN economic sanctions reduced real GDP by at least 75 percent in 1991, largely due to an 85 percent decline in oil production and devastation of the industrial and service sectors.

Although data on economic indicators are generally not available for the post war period, the behaviour of the exchange rate over the past several years reflects the underlying unstable and volatile situation. While the official and operational exchange rate before the UN sanctions was U.S.$ 1 = 0.311 Iraqi Dinar, the unofficial parallel rate declined rapidly following the sanctions. By December 1995, one U.S. dollar was equivalent to 2 900 ID. Since then it has fluctuated between 1740 - 700 ID. (Table 1). Despite the highly depreciated parallel exchange rate, the Government maintains an official rate of U.S.$ 1 to 0.311 ID, resulting in price distortions and inefficient allocation of resources.

Table 1: Monthly Unofficial Parallel Exchange Rate Changes (1994-1997) (Iraqi Dinar to U.S.$)
Month/year  1994  1995  1996  1997
January  640  700  1 137
February  800  1 325
March  1 020  1 250
April  1 200  1 250
May  1 180  1 258
June  1 200  1 610
July  460  1 670  -
August  650  1 900  -
September  525  2 020  1 140  -
October  630  2 650  1 700  -
November  550  2 530  1 740  -
December  560  2 900  850  -
Source: WFP/Baghdad.

2.2 Population

The total population of Iraq was 16.28 million in the October 1987 census, giving a population density of 36.8 persons per sq. km. The population for 1997/98 is estimated at 22.9 million. Baghdad and the governorate around the capital accounted for more than 30 percent of the total population at the time of the 1987 census. An axis of dense population developed between Baghdad and Basrah in the South as a result of migration and natural growth, leaving all other areas of the country comparatively sparsely populated. Some 73 percent of the population live in urban areas.

2.3 SCR 986

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 986 (SCR 986), adopted on 14 April 1995, aims at mitigating the impact of the sanctions on the Iraqi people by allowing the GOI to sell oil worth up to U.S.$ 2 billion during a six-month period. Proceeds from the sale are to be used, inter alia, for the importation of foodstuffs, urgent agricultural inputs, medicines and other humanitarian needs.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed on 20 May 1996 by the GOI and the UN for the implementation of SCR 986. The MOU sets out the details regarding the sale of oil, handling of the proceeds, purchases of food and other items, equitable distribution and the observation process.

The total amount of food to be purchased for the first six-month period under SCR 986 was about 2.2 million tons, valued at U.S.$ 805 million - U.S.$ 691.3 million for the centre/south and U.S.$ 113.3 million for the north.

The monthly food ration under the MOU has been designed to provide 2 030 kcal and 47g of plant protein per person per day. The GOI distributes food in the south/centre, while WFP has been given the responsibility for the north. WFP also provides emergency food assistance to the most vulnerable groups throughout the country.

An amount of U.S.$ 94 million has been allocated to address only the most urgent needs in the agriculture sector - U.S.$ 48 million for the centre/south and U.S.$ 46 million for the northern Governorates for one year, divided into two six-month periods. The GOI has identified and quantified the agricultural needs for 15 centre/south Governorates. But due to funding limitations, the allocation has been made for the high priority requirements only, which include plant protection chemicals and equipment; agricultural machinery and irrigation pumps; and veterinary supplies. For the northern Governorates, FAO, in consultation with the de-facto authorities there, has identified, quantified and prepared an agricultural distribution plan.

On 8 June 1997, the Security Council extended the oil-for-food deal, along with the MOU, for a second six-month period. The Distribution Plan for phase II was approved by the Secretary-General on 4 August, following which oil sales to generate the required revenues for the implementation of phase II started. Since the oil sales had been suspended until the Distribution Plan was approved, the proceeds during the first 90 days will be insufficient to cover food and other humanitarian requirements. In the centre and south, breaks in food supplies can be bridged only at a reduced ration scale from GOI sources, while in the northern autonomous Governorates the gaps will remain unfilled.



Although the agriculture sector contributed relatively little to the economy before the war, it has played an increasingly important role in recent years. Given serious import supply constraints, the government has implemented a number of measures aimed at achieving greater self-sufficiency in food. Notwithstanding these interventions, a significant reduction in area planted and yields in 1997 resulted in a substantial decrease in domestic food production.

An estimated 2.76 million hectares were planted to cereals in 1997, some 13 percent lower than 1995, previously the lowest year since 1991. For example, the Mission observed large unplanted areas in central and southern regions, particularly in the Al-Kut area where some 300 000 hectares of previously reclaimed, cultivated land have been abandoned due to rising soil salinity and lack of irrigation water, farm machinery and inputs.

Yields of wheat and barley have remained stagnant, at around 800 and 700 kg/hectare respectively, in recent years. An estimated wheat yield of 757 kg/hectare in 1997 is lower than in the previous two years and ranged from 1.1 tons/hectare on good irrigated lands to 900 kg/hectare on good rainfed lands and 650 kg/hectare on marginal rainfed land. For barley, the estimated yield in 1997 (663 kg/hectare) is lower than in 1996 (788 kg/hectare) but better than all previous years since 1991. Paddy and maize yields are estimated at about 2 tons/hectare respectively compared to 2.9 tons for paddy and 2.3 tons for maize in 1990. The Mission noted that crop yields are similar throughout the country and remain low due to poor land preparation as a result of lack of machinery, low use of inputs, deteriorating soil quality and irrigation facilities, increased insect/pest/weed infestation and continuous use of land without proper replenishment of plant nutrients through appropriate fertilizer use or adoption of proper crop rotations.

Production of the main cereals in 1997 is estimated at 2.2 million tons, (2.125 million tons including rice in milled equivalent) the lowest since 1991. Some 1.7 million tons of this is attributed to the central/southern regions and 0.5 million tons, less than one third, to the north (Table 2).

Due to a shortage of cereals and livestock products, vegetables and fruits have assumed increasing importance in the diet. The area under vegetables in 1997 was estimated at around 500 000 hectares, some 10 percent of the total area cultivated. Vegetables, however, are highly input-intensive and productivity remains constrained by lack of quality seeds, plant protection chemicals and fertilizers, mainly of the compound type. Moreover, the use of high doses of urea by itself has aggravated soil alkalinity, resulting in low crop response and greater crop susceptibility to insects and pests. Shortage of irrigation water is also a major constraint, whilst large scale weed and pest infestation in many areas have caused a significant decline in yield and quality of output. Field observations indicated that vegetable cultivation was characterised by insufficient land preparation, low plant densities, thin and weak plants due to low and unbalanced use of fertilizers and high weed competition. Total production of vegetables is estimated at around 2 million tons (1.5 million tons in centre/south and 0.5 million tons in the north), compared to average production of 3.2 to 3.5 million tons per year in the period 1991 to 1995.

Table 2: Iraq - Area, production and yield of cereal crops, 1995-1997

a) Iraq

1995  1996  1997 
Crop  Area (‘000 ha)  Yield (kg/ha)  Production (‘000 tons)  Area (‘000 ha)  Yield (kg/ha)  Production (‘000 tons)  Area (‘000 ha)  Yield (kg/ha)  Production (‘000 tons)
Wheat  1 535  805  1 236  1 500  867  1 300  1 405  757  1 063
Barley  1 389  642  892  1 650  788  1 300  1 173  663  778
Paddy  175  1 800  315  120  2 250  270  121  2 016  244
Maize  75  1 200  90  60  2 083  125  61  1 984  121
Total  3 174  798  2 533  3 330  899  2 995  2 760  799  2 206
Changes compared to 1995 (%)  +5  +13  +18  -13  -13

b) Central and Southern Regions

1995  1996  1997 
Crop  Area (‘000 ha)  Yield (kg/ha)  Production (‘000 tons)  Area (‘000 ha)  Yield (kg/ha)  Production (‘000 tons)  Area (‘000 ha)  Yield (kg/ha)  Production (‘000 tons)
Wheat  1 000  798  798  1 042  931  970  942  750  707
Barley  1 250  632  790  1 535  792  1 216  1 050  650  683
Paddy  175  1 800  315  98  2 285  224  100  2 000  200
Maize  75  1 200  90  59  2 102  124  60  2 000  120
Total  2 500  797  1 993  2 734  927  2 534  2 152  795  1 710
Changes compared to 1995 (%)  +9  +16  +27  -14  -14
c) Northern Governorates
1995  1996  1997 
Crop  Area (‘000 ha)  Yield (kg/ha)  Production (‘000 tons)  Area (‘000 ha)  Yield (kg/ha)  Production (‘000 tons)  Area (‘000 ha)  Yield (kg/ha)  Production (‘000 tons)
Wheat  535  819  438  458  720  330  463  768  356
Barley  139  734  102  115  729  84  123  766  94
Paddy  22  2 096  45  21  2 077  44
Maize  1
Total  674  801  540  595  773  460  608  814  495
Changes compared to 1995 (%)  -12  -4  -15  -10  +2  -8

Source: The 1995 Mission estimates for 1995, FAO estimate for 1996 based on official statistics and the present Mission estimates for 1997.

Total fruit production in 1997 is expected to be in the region of 1.5 million tons, though productivity remains constrained by pest attacks and weeds. Some 20 to 30 percent of produce is lost as waste in some areas. Dates and date products are important foods, especially since the embargo was implemented. This year, however, frost affected date production, particularly in the central region and it is estimated that production will be around 600 000 to 650 000 tons.

The animal population has declined steeply due to severe shortages of feed and vaccines during the embargo years. Production of milk and milk products has seriously declined due to poor animal health and lack of equipment, whilst supplies of meat have been drastically reduced. The Mission estimates the total animal population (cows, buffaloes, sheep and goats) in 1997 at 9.4 million, some 60 percent of the number in 1986-90. Approximately 6.2 million animals are in the centre/south and 3.2 million in the north. The poultry industry has also virtually collapsed due to lack of vaccines and feed. The Mission found that only 23 small to medium poultry farms are in operation at present compared to some 600 before 1991. The availability of poultry meat and eggs, therefore, is now negligible compared to levels before the embargo.

Fish production has also decreased drastically. The only central facility for rearing and supplying fish fingerlings to fish farmers and to rivers, ponds, lakes and water reservoirs to renew and maintain fish stocks in the country is seriously constrained due to deteriorating machinery and equipment and shortages of chemical, feed and hormone supplies. The per caput availability of domestically produced fish is believed to be insignificant.



Up to 1990, domestic food production accounted for only one third of total utilisation, even in exceptionally good years, with the balance covered by imports. During this time, the estimated cost of food imports averaged around U.S.$ 2 billion per year, though in poor production years the import bill could rise to U.S.$ 3 billion. Since the imposition of the oil embargo in August 1990, up to the implementation of the oil-for-food deal in December 1996, the country had to rely mainly on domestic production to meet food needs, as its capacity to import food commercially remained heavily constrained by the loss of export revenues.

Although the emphasis given to increasing food production in post war years resulted in an increase in estimated food production in both 1995 and 1996, forecast production this year will be some 13 percent below the 1995 level and 26 percent lower than in 1996. The sharp decline in output this year, therefore, strongly underlines the importance of timely food imports under SCR 986.

In analysing changes in food supply and consumption in the country, the following reference points are used for comparison, (a) pre-war average from 1984/85 to 1988/89; (b) the last FAO/WFP assessment in 1995 and (c) the current marketing year (1997/98). Derivation of the cereal balance for each of the reference years is based on the following assumptions:

Cereal balances comparing present Mission estimates with those of the previous Mission and with pre-1990 levelsreference years are indicated in Table 3.

Table 3: Iraq - Cereal balance sheet for 1984/85 to 1988/89, 1995/96 and 1997/98, (000 tons)
1984/85 - 1988/891/  1995/96  1997/98
Domestic Availability  3 440  2 429  2 125
Opening Stocks  1 376 
Production  2 064  2 429  2 125
Total Utilisation  6 694  3 646  5 356
Food Use  3 041  2 505  4 066 2/
Feed  1 497  641  740
Seed, losses and other uses.  752  500  550
Closing Stocks  1 333  -
Exports.  71  -
Imports  3 254  1 217  3 231
Commercial Imports  3 254  1 081  3 188 3/
Food Aid  136  43
Per Caput cereal food use kg/year  191  1214/  179

1/ Average.
2/ Based on total availability including imports under SCR986 for an estimated population of 22.7 million adults.
3/ 1997/98 commercial imports under SCR 986, based on six month quantities projected for a year.
4/ Based on actual utilization, which was substantially below pre-1990 levels.

Table 3 indicates, therefore, that in pre war years the country imported an average of some 3 million tons of cereals per year. These imports allowed the country to have a per caput availability of cereals which was amongst the highest in the region and also to maintain adequate stocks. However, by 1995/96 in spite of some gains in domestic food production, severe economic limitations meant that the country could only import limited amounts of food to maintain declining cereal rations. Estimated commercial imports in 1995/96 provided only 29 percent of reduced utilisation; food aid through WFP and NGOs, provided a further 4 percent. Commercial imports by 1995/96 were around one third of the average level in the pre-war years. There is ample evidence to show that reduced food availability since the oil embargo had a devastating effect on the population resulting in chronic and severe malnutrition.

Although theoretically, cereal imports in 1997/98 under the oil-for-food deal will be sufficient to meet almost the pre-1990 cereal food use and also allow slightly improved use of grains for feed, practical problems in the first half of 1997 have led to delays in the flow of food items. Of the expected quantities of wheat flour and rice in the first six months of the agreement, for example, only 43 percent and 20 percent respectively had been received by 22 June, whilst some other foods and salt, had not arrived. As the full ration becomes available to the population, arrangements will have to be in place to ensure that food producers continue to have an incentive to increase production, especially for foods either inadequately or not at all provided under the ration.

Effective implementation of SCR 986 will contribute to easing immediate food supply difficulties facing the country. However, further sustainable improvement in the nutritional well being of the population will be necessary. It will also require substantial resources to be channelled into rehabilitating the agriculture sector and the economy as a whole.



Food availability data for Iraq from the FAO food balance sheets show a sharp fall since 1990. Total dietary energy supply declined from an average of 3 372 Kcal/cap/day between 1984 and 1989, to 3 150 Kcal in 1990 and then dramatically fell to 2 268 Kcal/cap/day in 1993-95. This has not been due to generalised regional factors and conditions affecting production such as weather. Only in Iraq has there been a decline in food availability, with supplies in the other neighbouring countries either increasing or remaining stable over the same period.

This fall in the availability of dietary energy supplies was accompanied by declines in protein availability from 67.7 g/cap/day to 43.3 g/cap/day. Calculations of the lysine content of the Iraqi diet show simultaneous declines from 47 mg/g protein to 32 mg/g protein over the same period, indicating that protein quality as well as quantity was also affected. This is not surprising as the relative contributions of animal foods and pulses, both lysine-rich food sources, to energy supplies more than halved.

Before the Gulf war, food availability was quite adequate. This is corroborated by numerous nutrition assessments including a nutrition survey of children 0-8 years conducted in the Baghdad area in 1989 where the distribution of weight and height was found to be similar to international reference tables. Since this period foods available for consumption have declined, falling to around 2 250 Kcals/day between 1991-95 [/ No FAO/WFP Mission was fielded in 1996, but the situation is unlikely to have improved due to continued constraints on commercial imports.] /, and the quality of health, water and sanitation provision has deteriorated. Concomitantly the nutritional health of the population has fallen as documented by a number of nutritional assessment surveys conducted between 1991 and 1997. Indeed, nutritional catastrophe was only avoided in Central/South Iraq by the widespread availability of the Government food rations, and in the North by food aid provided by WFP and many NGOs.

As reported by the FAO/WFP Mission of 1995, the situation for the majority of the population had become deplorable and beggars, street children and undernourished children in hospitals were widely seen. This remains true today with malnutrition a serious problem throughout the whole country. Severe under-nutrition is widespread in paediatric hospitals reflecting its presence in the general population. Both marasmus and kwashiorkor were widely observed in paediatric wards by the team. These cases presented most of the classically recognised signs such as oedema in the face and feet for kwashiorkor and severe wasting, especially visible in the ribs, limbs and head for marasmus. Mothers accompanying such children in the wards were themselves undernourished. They were also rarely practising breast feeding.

A population-based nutrition survey was conducted from June 21 to July 3, 1997 in Baghdad (900 children) and in the town of Kerbala (158 children), a couple of hours drive south-west of the capital. The results obtained indicate that, although the situation shows some signs of improvement since the 1995 survey, there was still a considerable degree of malnutrition in the population. In the 30 clusters for Baghdad the percentage of children stunted (less than - 2 SD height-for-age) was 15.7 percent, for underweight (less than -2 SD weight-for-age) 11.3 percent, and wasting (less than -2 SD weight-for-height) 3.3 percent. In the 5 clusters for Kerbala the percentages for stunting (26.8 percent), underweight (18.1 percent), and wasting (5.1 percent) were all higher than for Baghdad. Observations of the mission outside of the Capital suggest that the nutritional situation found in Kerbala may be more reflective of the situation of the Iraqi population.

The data were stratified by child age, maternal education, diarrhoeal disease and gender. There was a peak in malnutrition between 12 and 23 months. The prevalence of malnutrition among children of educated mothers (those with college or university degrees) was found to be much less than in those children whose mothers had lower educational status. In Kerbala, children with diarrhoea had a high prevalence of both wasting (12.1 percent) and underweight (33.3 percent) compared with children who did not have diarrhoea (3.3 percent for wasting and 13.7 percent for underweight). In addition, there was a notable gender difference in the prevalence of underweight - boys (22.7 percent) were nearly twice as likely to be underweight as girls (12.5 percent).

Adult nutritional status was also investigated by determining body mass index (BMI = weight/height2) on 1,278 adults: 870 females and 408 males in Baghdad and Kerbala. When compared to BMI reference population data tabulated by FAO (1994), for instance and for Tunisia, the number of those with low BMI in Iraq was considerably greater than in the reference population, illustrating the considerable presence of under-nutrition in this sample of the Iraqi adult population. This is especially the case in young adults where 25 percent and 16 percent of young men and young women respectively below 26 yrs have BMI less than 18.5 and who may therefore be considered as being chronically energy deficient. The reduced food availability over the last seven years is probably the cause. This would lead to weight loss or poor child/adolescent weight gain. Improved food availability under SCR 986 should alleviate the situation, though many may remain undersized due to deprivation in childhood.

Lack of good-quality proteins and minerals in the diet of children remains a problem especially for children of weaning age. Under the MOU a family with an infant could choose whether to take either the formula or an adult ration and at the time of the Mission's visit, 75 percent of eligible families had preferred to take the adult ration. However families with infants no longer have this choice and must take the infant formula. The Mission believes that this is contrary to good breast-feeding practices and recommends that the freedom of choice to select other food commodities should be maintained. In addition, the water and sanitation situation remains poor, particularly in areas outside Baghdad. The synergistic effect between infection and diarrhoea has resulted in the cases of acute wasting and marasmus present in hospitals and observed by the members of the Mission.

Water availability in its widest sense involving drinking water, irrigation, water-logging, salinity and sewage disposal is absolutely fundamental to the future of agricultural productivity and health of the population. A recent UNICEF-GOI survey on the availability of water and sewage systems reported that more than half of the rural population did not have adequate access to potable water, while for sewage disposal some 30 percent of the total population, predominantly in the rural areas, were without adequate services with much of the waste being discharged directly into rivers and streams. In addition, much of the supplied water was contaminated or below acceptable standards. Such lack of water and sanitation services has a direct link with the prevalence of infantile malnutrition.

5.1 The Food Ration and SCR 986

The composition of the food ration between 1991 and 1997 is shown in Table 4. The first full deliveries under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) were expected for August 1997.

Table 4: Iraq - Per Caput Monthly Food Ration Under the Public Rationing System, 1991-97 (kg/person)

Commodity  1991  1993  1995  1997 
Pre-MOU  Under MOU
Wheat flour  8.00  9.000  6.000  7.000  9.000
Rice  1.50  2.250  1.250  1.250  2.500
Pulses  0.20  1.000
Vegetable oil  0.25  0.500  0.625  0.750  1.000
Sugar  1.00  1.500  0.500  0.500  2.000
Tea  0.05  0.075  0.100  0.100  0.150
Salt  0.150
Infant formula 1/  1.35  1.800  1.800  1.800  2.700
kcal value per caput/day excluding infant formula  1,372  1 705  1 093  1 295  2 030

1/ Infant formula is provided for infants under 1 year of age.
Under the MOU a family with an infant could choose whether to take either the formula or an adult ration and at the time of the Mission's visit, 75 percent of eligible families had preferred to take the adult ration. However families with infants no longer have this choice and must take the infant formula. The mission believes that this is contrary to good breastfeeding practices and recommends that the freedom of choice to select other food commodities sho
Note: The current ration also includes the following non-food items along with food ration for both adults and infants:
Detergents: 0.350 kg/person/month
Soap 0.250 kg/person/month

Before the Gulf war, Iraq used to produce about one-third of the basic food requirements of its population and spent over U.S.$ 2 billion annually to import the balance. By 1997, its capacity to produce food had deteriorated considerably while the population, and, hence, overall food requirements had increased. The Memorandum of Understanding, which came into affect following the implementation of SCR 986 will certainly bring noticeable improvement in the average food intake of the population as the average level of energy provided by the rations is expected to increase from 1295 Kcal/caput/day to 2030 Kcal/caput. Notwithstanding this improvement the food provided in the new distribution plan will still remain quantitatively and qualitatively inadequate.

Calculations of nutritional adequacy of the SCR 986 food ration were made by converting the quantities of food of this ration into calories and nutrients using appropriate food composition data and comparing the results to the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA).

The energy value of the ration (2 030 Kcals/cap/day) is inadequate as it does not meet the minimum requirements of the population of Iraq, estimated at around 2 100 Kcals/cap/day. The Mission is fully aware that some foods produced domestically are added to those which are provided by the ration (Table 5). Estimates for the total energy supply for 1997/98 is 2 424 Kcals/cap/day (excluding the small contribution from fruits and vegetables, figures for which are not available). However, although the ration may be complemented by the local purchase of such food items, the Mission is concerned that these items are not available at prices affordable by the majority of the population. Consequently, the ration is considered insufficient to raise the average availability in the country to a level which would eliminate under-nutrition throughout the country. Noting that the prevalence of malnutrition was high between 1991-95 even when total food supplies were on average above the level of 2 250 Kcals level and hence above the requirement level, the Mission calls for additional food supplies to be made available to the affected population to correct this situation.

The ration is also unbalanced and deficient in a number of nutrients, in particular, vitamins A and C are almost absent and the levels of calcium, zinc, riboflavin and vitamin B6 are all very low. The MOU ration does not contain foods such as meat, fish, eggs or dairy products, the inclusion of which would improve the diversity and nutritional quality of the diet. The fat (oil) in the ration provides only 16 percent of food energy as against 23 percent of total dietary energy intake before the war and the mission recommends that in order to provide a more energy dense diet the present percentage needs to be increased significantly. Protein quality is also low as would be expected from a ration based heavily on cereals as indicated by the low level of lysine per mg/g protein.

The high quality foods needed to supplement the ration, including those necessary to provide the needed bio-available micro-nutrients, are animals foods - meat, fish, eggs and dairy products - and fruits and vegetables. These are all, whether imported or locally produced, the more expensive foods and are beyond the purchasing power of most. Indeed the mission considers that one of the major reasons for there continuing to be problems of malnutrition is the differences in people’s ability to supplement the basic rations with appropriate nutritious foods. Such foods could not only improve nutrition but, if provided from local production, would also stimulate the agricultural sector. Within the agricultural sector, special attention should, therefore, be given to measures that will encourage producers to increase production of animal products, fruits and vegetables and ensure favourable returns to producers of crop products.

Given the considerable evidence of widespread malnutrition and the overall poor food and nutrition situation in the country, the mission concludes that the present ration is unbalanced and insufficient to rapidly reverse the serious nutritional consequences of the supply shortages which have been experienced over the last seven years. The mission also believes that although the ration may be complemented by the local purchase of food items which add variety and diversity to the diet, these items are beyond the purchasing power of the majority of the population. If the population is to resume consumption levels adequate to eliminate the prevailing nutritional deficits, food supplies must be increased from the quantities estimated to be available in 1997/98. The precise magnitude of the increases in food supplies necessary to eliminate nutritional deficits cannot be known. The Mission believes that in order to ensure widespread improvements in nutritional status food supplies need not return to the pre-1990 levels. It also realizes that a return to these levels cannot be expected under existing conditions. Nevertheless, it is instructive to compare the food supply estimates for 1997-98 with those observed prior to 1990 (Table 5), as the Mission believes that the population would return to these levels if conditions permitted. available.The Mission estimates of the volume of food (including provisions under SCR 986) which could be necessary to reach the pre-1990 levels is indicated in Table 5.

Table 5: Iraq: Food supply 1997/98 and utilization based on pre-1990 per caput levels (‘000 tons)

Commodity  Estimated production  Possible imports under SCR 986/MOU  Total supply 1997-98  Pre -1990 supplies 1/  Difference
Cereals for food and other uses  2 125  3 188  5 3562/  5 626  -270
Pulses  271  271  129  -142
Vegetable oil  85  271  356  321  +35
Red meat  45  45  245  -200
Poultry meat  33  33  245  -212
Fish  67  -62
Eggs (million)  150  150  1 228  -1 078
Milk  NA  NA  401  -241
Tea  None  41  41  67  -26
Sugar  70  541  611  877  -266

1/ Based on pre-1990 per caput levels. For cereals, feed and other uses refer to the current levels and not the higher levels of pre-1990.
2/ Includes 43 000 tons of pledged food assistance

In view of the precarious condition of the vulnerable groups in the population, emergency feeding programmes, such as those of WFP, have been ongoing since 1991. In spite of the increase in the rations due to SCR 986, the need for vulnerable group feeding remains, especially since the on-going programme only meets some of their needs. It is strongly recommended, therefore, that, in addition to an overall improvement of the food supply situation, the international community continues supporting feeding programmes for selected vulnerable groups who are not adequately covered by the SCR 986 food distribution. These groups include malnourished children under five, hospital inpatients, orphanages and social institutions, IDPs and refugees.

Although the advent of SCR 986 has increased food availability, nutritional problems do and will continue to exist. Of major importance is the severe deterioration of the water and sanitation system in Iraq. It is recommended that high priority be given to comprehensive and sustainable rehabilitation of the water and sanitation system, otherwise water-borne diseases, including nutritional marasmus, will remain a major problem despite improved food availability. Other important recommendations include improvements in the ration during pregnancy and lactation, as well as the effective promotion of breast feeding. Micro-nutrient deficiencies, especially iron, are widespread and consideration should be given to fortification of wheat flour under SCR 986. Food safety and the need for refurbishing the food industry in Iraq are also important since, at present, many unsafe additives are in the food supply and the whole food industry has seriously deteriorated over the last seven years.



Since 1991, WFP food assistance has been provided under ten Emergency Operations (EMOPs) and provided a total of 489 447 tons of food aid against projected requirements of 782 373 tons.

Table 6: Iraq - WFP Emergency Operations, 1991-97

EMOP No.  Duration  Beneficiaries  Projected requirements (tons)  Amount distributed (tons)
)  735 000  35 166  36 242
) 136 949 1/  March 91-Dec.91  1 235 000  28 134  63 479
)  1 540 000  35 158  28 229
5001  Dec.92-March 93  1 200 000  50 701  19 396
5311  July 93-Dec.93  1 300 000  100 296  80 514
5311.01  Jan.94-March 94  1 300 000  49 260  28 440
5311.02  Oct.94-March 95  1 300 000  102 285  55 936
5311.03  Apr.95-Sept.95  1 325 000  63 789  26 674
5311.04  Oct.95-March 96  2 150 000  121 159  92 273
5311.05  Oct.96-March 97  2 150 000  122 039  52 078
5311.06*  Apr.97-May 97  2 150 000  6 186
May 97-July 97  1 263 000  ) 74 386 
Aug.97-Dec.97  872 000 
TOTAL  782 373  489 447

1/ Caseload will be gradually reduced in line with distributions of SCR 986 commodities.

Programming of WFP food assistance is designed to assist the destitute and vulnerable groups, victims of years of armed conflict and post-war economic collapse. In the centre and south, WFP implements feeding programmes with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLSA) for the registered destitutes and those in social welfare institutions, the General Federation of Iraqi Women (GFIW) for malnourished children under five and women headed households, the Ministry of Health (MoH) for hospital inpatients, and UNHCR for refugees.

Variations in the WFP caseload over the past six years have reflected changes in internal programming due to refined targeting practices, population movements and donor response to the operation. In 1995, WFP doubled its caseload to 2.15 million beneficiaries and included a project for malnourished children under 5, the group considered to be most at risk from the chronic malnutrition situation identified by the FAO/WFP Assessment Mission in 1995.

Until recently, WFP distributed a basic daily ration of 300 g wheat flour (or 400 g wheat grain in the northern Governorates), 30 g pulses and 30 g vegetable oil and 20 g sugar to provide 2000 kilo calories (kcal) per day. Malnourished children under 5 received 100 g wheat/soya blend and 20 g vegetable oil and 20 g sugar. For hospital in-patients, the ration was 150 g wheat flour, 150 g rice, 30 g pulses, 30 g vegetable oil, 10 g sugar, 30 g canned fish and 20 g DSE. Refugees in the centre/south received the basic ration on a bi-monthly basis.

With the beginning of distributions of SCR 986 commodities, WFP amended its caseload and the food basket to meet the special food needs of the most vulnerable groups, especially those who have been weakened by the chronic malnutrition situation and the decline in real incomes, and whose special food needs will fall outside the "safety net" that SCR 986 provides. The ration for all beneficiaries other than hospital in-patients, has been reduced to 150 g wheat flour, 30 g pulses, 30 g vegetable oil and 10 g sugar. At present, the caseload covers 597 000 people in the Centre/South and 275 000 in the North. According to original plans, the caseload of beneficiaries in the three northern governorates was expected to be scaled down to 91 000 on 1 August. However, due to persistent widespread malnutrition amongst vulnerable groups, the caseload has been adjusted to 275 000 beneficiaries. The largest proportion of this increase being attributed to malnourished children.

In real terms, however, distributions for the last two years have reflected donor response, which has been, at times, less than optimal, especially in the centre/south. In the northern Governorates, distributions have remained stable for the established caseload, other than for the months of May and June 1996, when deliveries of commodities from Turkey were delayed. In the centre/south, distributions have fluctuated depending on stocks in country. Priority for food deliveries is always accorded to the Ministry of Health for hospital in-patients and WFP tries to maintain a buffer stock in hospitals to offset any breaks in the pipeline.
This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources and is for official use only. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required. 
Abdur Rashid
Telex 610181 FAO I
Fax: 0039-6-5705-4495
E-mail: [email protected]
Pierre Bourgeois 
Acting Regional Director, OMC, WFP 
Telex: 626675 WFP 1 
Fax: 0039-6-6513-2208 
 E-mail: [email protected] 
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