The United Nations World Food Programme issued a press release today about its new cash-for-work program to help Iraqis who cannot afford to buy food. The situation in Iraq highlights that availability of food is not the only issue when it comes to hunger. The question becomes can people access the food. Can they afford it and how is it distributed?
Here is the full text of the WFP press release:
BAGHDAD – The World Food Programme (WFP) today launched a cash-for-work programme in Iraq to help some of the poorest sections of Iraqi society earn enough money to pay for food that might otherwise be beyond their reach.
“Food insecurity in Iraq is an access problem, not an availability problem,” said WFP Country Director Edward Kallon. “While there’s food in the shops, not everyone can afford it and nearly a million people still need food assistance and millions more depend on government aid.”
The programme is being piloted in the central Iraqi governorate of Diyala to stimulate public works, provide employment and promote food security in some of the poorest districts in the country. The pilot will be closely monitored and assessed as a model for similar programmes across Iraq.
The cash-for-work activities include the clearing and rehabilitation of sewage and irrigation canals, tree planting, rehabilitation of farmland and a sanitation campaign. Participants will be paid the Iraqi dinar equivalent of US$10 per day for a three-month period, with supervisors paid the equivalent of US$13 per day.
Beneficiaries will initially be paid in cash on a weekly basis. However, WFP is exploring the possibilities of using electronic technology, such as smart cards, to facilitate payments and reduce security risks in future programmes.
“Cash-for-work projects are an innovative way to provide a much-needed influx of cash to poor communities who struggle to make ends meet and provide food for their families,” said Kallon. “They are appropriate when food is readily available in the markets but out of their reach.”
The pay rates have been set below the average daily wage of US$13-17 for labourers, so that it benefits only the most vulnerable members of the community who might not otherwise be able to find work. A total of 1,444 households will be targeted in the pilot.
Implementation of the programme will be carried out by Mercy Corps, a WFP cooperating partner with considerable experience in managing community infrastructure programmes.
The cash-for-work project is part of the “Diyala Initiative” to provide a series of integrated and coordinated interventions to facilitate the resettlement of internally displaced people (IDPs), returnees and other vulnerable groups. The effort is being led by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the Office of the Prime Minister.
Other participants include the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, WFP and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Funding of US$618,000 for the cash-for-work project has been provided by the United States.