IRAQ: State food aid package slashed

Photo: Sabah Arar/UNICEF
More than half Iraq’s 29 million citizens receive government food aid (file photo)

BAGHDAD, 1 April 2010 (IRIN) – The Iraqi government has decided to cut by half the number of items in state food aid parcels – something that could affect roughly half the population, according to the Trade Ministry.

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In future, parcels would contain only flour, rice, sugar, cooking oil and milk.

“The food rationing system has become a burden on the budget,” Deputy Trade Minister Waleed al-Hilo told IRIN. About US$3 million has been allocated to the Trade Ministry for state food aid – half the sum requested, he said.

“These allocations are not enough to keep the system running until the end of the year because of an increase in prices… So we decided to focus our attention on the most important items,” he said, adding that they would continue to distribute some of the soon-to-be omitted items for several months while stocks lasted.

The move comes just a few weeks after a decision to exclude from state food aid distribution lists those considered to be better off.

Iraq’s food rationing system, known as the Public Distribution System (PDS), was set up in 1995 as part of the UN’s oil-for-food programme following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, but it has been crumbling since 2003 due to poor management, insecurity and corruption, a senior official said.

Monthly PDS parcels have hitherto been supposed to contain rice (3kg per person); sugar (2kg per person); cooking oil (1.25kg or one litre per person); flour (9kg per person); milk for adults (250g per person); tea (200g per person); beans (250g per person); children’s milk (1.8kg per child); soap (250g per person); detergents (500g per person); and tomato paste (500g per person).

Many people are shocked by the latest move.

“As a construction worker, I don’t have a steady daily or monthly income. I’m highly dependent on government aid for food and non-food items,” said Kahalf Hamid Dawood, 52, from Sadr City in east Baghdad.

He explained that by selling some of the food items he did not need, he was able to earn a little extra money. “The government must compensate poor people with money so that they can buy what they need. The cut will place another burden on us,” he said.


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]