[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Iraq aid 'UN's greatest challenge'
British troops control crowd of Iraqis seeking aid
Rush for aid: But some say the need is not that desperate
The conflict in Iraq has left the United Nations World Food Programme facing its biggest challenge since the organisation began, its director has said.

James Morris, executive director of the WFP, said that the agency would need up to $1.3bn in order to feed Iraq's 27 million-strong population for the next six months.

This was in addition to the programme's existing commitments to those facing starvation in Africa, Mr Morris said.

"With the majority of Iraqis set to exhaust their food reserves by May, the agency plans to support a food distribution system capable of meeting the needs of the entire population," he said.

He added that the global community needed to be "prepared for a six-month programme" of aid for the country, although he warned that if the war continued for a long period the programme's six-month strategy would not be sufficient.

"Our plate is very full these days," he said.

"The longer the conflict, the more difficult our task will be."

'Pockets of need'

Mr Morris said the agency's international staff would not go into areas which were not safe.

It is not clear what the WFP will do if the war drags on and its unable to deploy its staff inside Iraq.

However, a spokesman for the US Government's aid agency in Kuwait City, said that the situation in Iraq might not be as serious as previously thought.

A days' food: The humanitarian aid rations troops give out

Donald Tighe from the US Government's Disaster Action Response Team (Dart) told the BBC that although it was "a huge priority" to re-establish the WFP's programme for Iraqi civilians, aid issues in the country had not reached crisis stage.

"Crisis isn't the word, yet, from what we've found in our assessments," he said.

"There's obviously pockets of need... for example in Umm Qasr... [but] there's no problem with food currently."

Mr Tighe said there had been problems with matching supply and demand, for example ensuring that food supplies go to the vulnerable, not to "young, strong, healthy men".

Mr Tighe said that the Iraqi people had been stockpiling food and probably had sufficient supplies for around four to six weeks and possibly up to six months.

But, he warned, re-establishing water supplies was problematic.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Aid is piling up in countries neighbouring Iraq, the UN says it is not yet safe to take it in"

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific