Hunger in Iraq: An interview with Chloe Cornish of the UN World Food Program

Chloe Cornish, a WFP officer, recently visited Erbil City in Northern Iraq, where many civilians have fled for their lives. In the following interview, Cornish talks about the hunger emergency in Iraq and how WFP is helping these war victims.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is the lead agency providing food aid to starving Iraqis. Chloe Cornish, a WFP officer, recently visited Erbil City in Northern Iraq, where many civilians have fled for their lives. In the following interview, Cornish talks about the hunger emergency in Iraq and how WFP is helping these war victims.

Are there parts of Iraq where people are cut off from the WFP food aid by ISIS. Do we have any idea what conditions these people are in?

Absolutely. Militants cause two major problems for WFP access: places they put under siege, and places they control. WFP works with its partners to reach people in need of food assistance whenever and wherever it finds a window of opportunity. However, there are many areas it cannot reach, and the food security of people in these areas is of grave concern.

Did WFP take part in the recent convoy to Dhuluiya, Salah al-Din which was just freed?

Yes. In a joint response with UNICEF, we provided Immediate Response Rations (portable ready-to-eat food, sustaining a family of five for three days), which assisted 2,500 people.

In Erbil city what kind of condition are the displaced Iraqis in when they arrive?

This depends on the socio-economic background which they come from originally. Some arrived in cars and had the resources to stay in hotels for a while – others arrived with next to nothing, having fled on foot or in shared transport. Many were severely traumatized, having fled for their lives.

Can they find jobs, schooling and shelter in Erbil? How difficult is that?

Employment and education are huge challenges for displaced people in Erbil. There are limited opportunities for casual labour, and although some have secured work (for example in shops and hotels, or as street vendors), thousands more have been unable to find opportunities. Schools are full, and the young people we speak to are frustrated that their education is being held back.

There are three main camps for IDPs in Erbil city, one of which is an unfinished mall which has been fitted with cubicles by UNHCR. However, thousands are still living in unfinished buildings, coping with health-threatening freezing winter temperatures, dangerous conditions for young children, and increasing threats of eviction.

Is WFP their main source of food during this crisis?

Yes. WFP in-kind food assistance covers 80% of daily intake requirements, providing the basic commodities used by families, such as rice, wheat flour, lentils, oil, past and salt. WFP has been rolling out food voucher assistance for displaced people in Erbil: each person receives a monthly food voucher, worth US$26, which can be redeemed at selected local shops on fresh food, such as eggs, meat, and fruit and vegetables.

Are those families you spoke with in Erbil living in those dreadful winter conditions now. I heard there was some areas near zero.

Yes they are. Although the humanitarian community has provided huge amounts of winterization relief, the conditions are really very harsh. There’s frost on the ground every morning here in Erbil at the moment.

How can WFP maintain food aid with what appears to be a prolonged conflict?

WFP requires US$235 million to continue providing food assistance to 1.8 million displaced people across Iraq until December 2015. We hope that donors will continue to show their generosity towards the vulnerable people of Iraq, and enable WFP to continue its vital work.

For more information and to donate visit the World Food Program.

Originally published at Examiner.

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