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IRAQ: Hunger

Millions of Iraqis are desperately hungry: Several million Iraqis remain desperately hungry despite a better cereals crop and the lifting of economic sanctions, UN food agencies saidĘ "While starvation has been averted, chronic malnutrition persists among several million vulnerable people," the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, introducing a report on Iraqi food supplies and nutrition.

The agency said the hardest hit included some 100,000 refugees and 200,000 displaced people. The report published by FAO and the World Food Program (WFP), the UN food aid agency, said nearly half of Iraq's 26.3 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid despite a better cereal harvest and the removal of sanctions.

This year's cereal production in Iraq is forecast at 4.12 million tons, 22 per cent more than in 2002. "Production increased mainly due to favorable rains in the north, increased irrigation and timely distribution of seeds and tools in the main producing areas," FAO said.

War, sanctions and drought have seriously eroded living standards in Iraq. About 60 per cent of the Iraqi population is unemployed and depends largely on food rations. The report said millions of Iraqis have no access to food other than through public assistance, which is still financed through the oil-for-food program that allows Iraq to sell oil so it can fund purchases of food, medicine and humanitarian supplies. It said public food handouts were needed in Iraq in the short-to-medium term because the farm sector would need considerable time to get back to strength.

WFP estimates 3.5 millmion people will need supplementary food at a cost of US$51 million in 2004. Food supplements are needed for malnourished children, their family members and pregnant and nursing mothers, WFP said. (Reuters, 9/24/03)

Ronald Hilton - 10.01.03