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Dismal funding, hunger threatens 3 million Iraqis

UN food agency warns ‘dismal’ funding shortfall threatens over 3 million Iraqis

A “dismal” 56 per cent funding shortfall is jeopardizing emergency operation in Iraq to feed more than 3 million people, over half of them children, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

“The hungry in Iraq should be at the top of donors' lists; instead they seem to be at the bottom. It's hard to understand,” WFP Country Director Calum Gardner said of the agency's $66 million operation running until the end of this year, for which it has received only $29 million. “In July this year, donors again pledged millions of dollars for Iraq's reconstruction yet we find ourselves dismally short of cash,” he added.

“We provide food to those who cannot support themselves - children, women and the chronically sick. If we don't get more funding soon, we will no longer be able to assist them.”

Mr. Gardner noted that WFP so far had been able to help nearly 1.5 million people, “which is tremendous, but of course we want very much to reach more of those that we know are vulnerable.”

The operation, launched a year ago, aims to provide 67,000 metric tons of food to assist over 1.7 million extremely impoverished primary schoolchildren, 220,000 malnourished children and their family members (totalling over 1.1 million), 350,000 pregnant and lactating women and more than 6,000 tuberculosis patients.

Recent health and nutrition statistics indicate the growing negative impact on the most vulnerable of decades of conflict, economic sanctions, unemployment, illiteracy and insecurity. According to a WFP food security survey last year, over 27 per cent of all children under the age of five are chronically malnourished.

“Rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure is an important part of reconstruction, but also critical is getting girls and boys back into the classroom. Our food-for-education programme is doing just that,” Mr. Gardner said.

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