18 November 2003 ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme hasannounced it will meet the 21 November deadline for re-negotiating nearly900 Oil-for-Food contracts covering food, transport and handlingequipment.
A team of WFP and Iraqi Ministry of Trade officials have alreadysuccessfully renegotiated most of the food contracts at the request of theUN Security Council. The number of contracts already amended ensures thatIraq will have enough humanitarian food available until June 2004, saidTorben Due, WFP’s Country Representative for Iraq.
Started in December 1996, the Oil-for-Food Programme (OFFP) allowed Iraqto purchase food and other necessities using the proceeds of oil exportedunder UN supervision. As a result, some 500,000 tons of food were procuredand shipped to Iraq every month and distributed through the country’sPublic Distribution System (PDS).
While WFP only monitored the dispatch of OFFP commodities in the centraland southern parts of the country, the UN agency -- on behalf of the Iraqigovernment -- implemented the entire programme for 3.7 million people inthe Northern governorates of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah where rates ofchild malnutrition were successfully reduced.
In addition to the OFFP, WFP set up a supplementary feeding programme inJanuary 1999 using funding from donors that targeted over 100,000 people,including the elderly and malnourished children in the governorates ofBasra, Missan and Thi-Qar.
In April 2003, WFP also launched an Emergency Operation which providedassistance for the total Iraqi population of 27 million people, thelargest humanitarian operation on record. Over the last six months, WFPtransported more than 2.1 million tons of food. This is by far the largestamount of food assistance ever delivered over such a short period of time,added Due.
WFP is now focused on this week’s preparations for handing over theOil-for-Food operation for the Public Distribution System to the CoalitionProvisional Authority (CPA) and the Iraqi Ministry of Trade.
The agency is discussing the provision of any future support in Iraq,while monitoring the overall food security situation.
In preparation for the 21 November handover, WFP has trained Iraqis tohandle the cross-border transportation, warehouse and databank management,monitoring and the negotiation of contracts.
Despite economic sanctions being lifted, this year’s bumper cerealharvest, and a smooth hand-over process, much of the population stillrelies on food rations through the PDS, reported a recent FAO/WFP foodsupply and nutrition assessment. About 55 percent of the population ispoor and about 44 percent are food insecure, the report said.
WFP remains hopeful that the Public Distribution System will remain intactuntil at least mid-2004. Any significant disruption of the PDS would havesevere negative impact on food access, stressed the FAO/WFP assessment.
By 14 November, WFP had successfully renegotiated 2.76 million metric tonsof food commodities, valued around US$1.412 billion, which will bedelivered over the next six months. This means that 97 percent of the foodcontracts have been re-negotiated.