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WFP Reports Millions in Iraq Need Food Aid

The United Nations World Food Program says it does not have enough money to feed about three million people in Iraq, over half of them children.

World Food Program Spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume tells VOA, international donors have pledged millions of dollars for Iraq's reconstruction. Yet, the same donors, she says, have given hardly anything to help feed millions of Iraq's hungry people.

"We think that the hungry should be at the top of the donor list among all the needs in Iraq, and, instead, they seem to be at the bottom," Ms.Berthiaume said. "And, it is very difficult to understand. There are three million people, half of them children. The other ones are family members of children that are malnourished, pregnant and lactating women, as well as tuberculosis patients who do need food help and food aid."

Because it is short of cash, Ms. Berthiaume says, WFP has been able to assist less than half of the people in need.

A year ago, the agency launched a $66 million appeal. It has received only $29 million. Among the donors are the United States, which has contributed $2.7 million and Japan, which has given more than $5 million.

A WFP food security survey published last year, shows more than 27 percent of all children under the age of five are chronically malnourished. Ms. Berthiaume says the condition of these children would be even worse without the rations they receive from the government's Public Distribution System.

"During the sanction period, under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the food was distributed to all Iraqis through a Public Distribution System, " she explained. "That still is doing the same thing right now, and this, at least, the survey has underlined that, without the PDS, the Public Distribution System, the number would increase dramatically."

Ms. Berthiaume says Iraq, with its oil reserves, has the potential of becoming a wealthy country one day. But, meanwhile, she says, millions of impoverished people need food aid.