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The Withdrawal of Humanitarian Aid in Iraq

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At the end of August, we will see a U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq. But there is another withdrawal already under way in Iraq: humanitarian aid.

Low funding has forced the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to significantly cut programs that benefit Iraqi school children and malnourished children under the age of five.

Caroline Legros, a WFP officer in Iraq says, “The plan of reaching 1.76 million beneficiaries (960,000 primary school children and 800,000 pregnant/nursing women, malnourished children under 5, and their families) has been revised to just under 300,000 beneficiaries in total.”

The school feeding program was started to help children living in the most impoverished districts in the country. WFP initially reached about 170,000 children with the program last year. WFP’s Robin Lodge reported on one of these early distributions of school feeding.

Mid-morning food, consisting of date bars fortified with iron and vitamin A, is provided daily to boost children’s nutrition level and improve classroom performance. Imagine what this means to a family living in poverty and struggling to put food on the table each day. This extra food provided at school serves as an incentive for families to send their kids to school in the first place.

WFP wanted to expand school feeding to reach 960,000 Iraqi children, but the lack of funding has put a halt to this. The school feeding was to include, in time, a local production component to help the Iraqi economy. If funding is restored, this is another byproduct of school feeding that could be realized.


Low funding for the World Food Programme is preventing a school feeding program from reaching over 900,000 Iraqi children. (WFP photo)

For the youngest of all children, and pregnant mothers, poor nutrition has reached a critical level. WFP reports that “Global acute malnutrition (GAM) or wasting among children under 5… reaches 15 percent in the most-vulnerable districts.”

That is why the WFP program to provide rations to families with malnourished children or pregnant women is especially important. The program also encourages attendance at health care clinics. The funding needs to be restored so it can reach all families in need.

WFP also wants to run Cash or Food for Work programs to help with rehabilitation of farmland and other vital projects. Edward Kallon, WFP country director says, “We also have the capacity to scale up our assistance if additional funding is confirmed.”

The Iraqis’ situation points once again to the importance of the U.S. establishing a food ambassador or global hunger envoy to solve these problems. The U.S. can provide consistent and meaningful leadership to rally the international support needed to prevent hunger and malnutrition in Iraq and other countries.

WFP needs 235 million dollars for a two-year program in Iraq. International cooperation can help Iraq restore these food assistance initiatives.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.
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