15 January 2009Thanks largely to a multi-million dollar donation from the Iraqi Government, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is able to complete its operation feeding hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by the violence in the strife-ridden country. Thanks largely to a multi-million dollar donation from the Iraqi Government, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is able to complete its operation feeding hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by the violence in the strife-ridden country. The $40 million backing from Iraq has provided WFP with sufficient funds to sustain its efforts in allotting food assistance to around 750,000 vulnerable internally displaced persons (IDPs) until the programme is scheduled to end in March. “It was this contribution, more than anything else, that ensured that the poorest among the displaced, who have lost access to the Iraqi Public Distribution System (PDS), are still receiving food rations,” said WFP Iraq Country Director Edward Kallon. The WFP operation targets the IDPs who are unable to register for the safety net of the Government-run PDS rations – which all 29 million Iraqis are eligible to receive – because they have left their original place of residence. The Government funding, which was confirmed in May, has been used to purchase more than 31,000 metric tons of wheat flour, 2,600 tons of oil and 2,250 tons of beans for distribution to vulnerable IDPs in all of Iraq’s 18 governorates. Today’s WFP announcement came two months after the publication of a detailed report by the Iraqi Government and WFP on food security in Iraq, which found that the numbers of people suffering from food insecurity was slashed from around four million in 2005 to 930,000 last year. Mr. Kallon attributed the improvement in access to food to increased economic activity across the country, stimulated by a marked improvement in security and the humanitarian efforts of the international community, while noting that the situation remained volatile and any upsurge in violence could undermine the whole process. At the same time, the report, the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis, warned that a further 6.4 million people were in danger of sliding into food insecurity if it were not for safety nets such as the PDS, which provides Iraqis with a monthly food basket. The report recommended continued food assistance to the most vulnerable in collaboration with the Government’s efforts to reform the PDS, as well as support for initiatives aimed at improving mother and child caring practices and providing food for education in the poorest areas, with particular emphasis on girls’ enrolment and attendance. Mr. Kallon said that WFP stood ready to assist in these areas, particularly with a view to providing technical expertise and helping build capacity, should the Government of Iraq request it. Meanwhile, Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, met today with leaders of Iraq’s political blocs to brief them on the state of readiness and technical preparations for the upcoming provincial elections, and to outline the special measures being put in place to tackle fraud.He said that the technical preparations are well on track to have elections on 31 January, with over 20 million ballot papers to be delivered during the coming week. Mr. de Mistura emphasized that special security features will be used to make it extremely difficult to duplicate the ballots. Additional procedures have also been put in place to ensure that multiple voting and attempts to manipulate the polling are minimized.The UN is assisting Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), which is responsible for preparing and conducting elections – beginning with the provincial polls slated for 31 January and culminating with parliamentary elections in 2009-2010.