Iraq may not be in the headlines as much these days. But the country is still facing significant challenges recovering from years of conflict. Right now, the World Food Programme (WFP) is short on funding for its programs for the vulnerable segments of the Iraqi population: women and children.
Food and health education programs for women and children have been significantly cut back because of the lack of funding. Child malnutrition is a serious crisis in Iraq. As WFP reports, "Global acute malnutrition (GAM) or wasting among children...reaches 15 percent in the most-vulnerable districts."
This condition is a withering away of a child. It will leave lasting physical and mental damage. It is simply unacceptable that a reconstruction program for a country would not tackle child nutrition.
Funding is still low for school feeding and infant/mother nutrition programs in Iraq run by the World Food Programme.
WFP also had plans to reach 960,000 Iraqi children under a school feeding program. This program did receive a $17 million boost from the Iraqi government, and 540,000 children are being reached for the 2010-2011 school year.
Edward Kallon, WFP Iraq Director, says "the situation is improving gradually." But he also cautions that much more needs to be done. The rest of the funding gap needs to be filled to reach more children. In addition, progress toward an Iraqi national school lunch program must continue.
There have been many definitions of what success in Iraq means. One way you can define it is the health of its children, for that is what will chart the future course of the country.
The United States, the Iraqi government, and international partners will have to work out the issues regarding the suspension of the WFP programs. The U.S. needs to quickly appoint a top-level food ambassador, as called for in the Global Food Security Act, to work on this and other hunger issues that threaten nearly one billion people worldwide.