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Iraq to be Recipient of WFP's Largest Humanitarian Operation - 2003-05-11


The U.N. World Food Program is gearing up in Iraq for the biggest humanitarian relief operation in its history.

World Food Program Executive Director James Morris, said the agency will run a six-month program costing more than $1.8 billion to feed the Iraqi population. "While this is an enormously large food challenge, and a humanitarian challenge in general, we are going to be able to work through this, without serious hunger on the part of any Iraqi civilians," he said.

Mr. Morris visited Baghdad to meet Iraqi and American officials. He told a news conference the talks were dominated by security concerns. "It is the overwhelming issue. Security for our warehouses, for the mills, security for our convoys, and security for our offices, and law and order generally across the country; so that people have some confidence that they will be safe working, etceteras," he said.

Mr. Morris said there are more than 100,000 tons of food stored in Iraq, but 2.5 million tons will be needed during the next six months.

He said the Iraqi Trade Ministry will resume distribution of rations through 44,000 outlets around the country, beginning in June. "At the high point, for a period of five months, we will be providing food for 27.1 million people. We have never done anything that big before. And we will obviously depend heavily on the public distribution system of the Ministry of Trade, which has functioned very well," Mr. Morris said.

Timing of the U.N. food effort is critical, because Iraqis are running out of the three-month supply of food they got in February in anticipation of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled President Saddam Hussein.

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