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Oil-for-Food Programme
Background Brief - Food Basket

Oil-for-Food stocks

The Oil-for-Food Programme in its current phase XIII includes more than 3.4 million metric tonnes of food ration stocks worth almost $1.3 billion. Almost 570,000 metric tonnes of food ration items are distributed through the Oil-for-Food Programme nationwide every month. As of March 2003, there was some $2.5 billion worth of food (6.4 million tons) in the pipeline to Iraq. Although the Government of Iraq has been advancing the monthly distribution of food it is estimated that most households have no more than six weeks of ration items in reserve. Poor households typically sell part of their food basket to pay for other necessities.

Food Basket (Rations)
The monthly food basket includes wheat, flour, sugar, rice, milk powder, tea, salt, detergents, soap, beans, lentils and cooking oil. The basket aims to provide 2,470 calories a day but does not include fruit, vegetables, or meat. For families with infants and young children it also includes infant formula and weaning cereal, and extra detergent and toilet soap.

Humanitarian Distribution (How it works)
At the start of each new phase of the Oil-for-Food Programme, the government submits a Distribution Plan for the approval of the Secretary-General. The current plan (phase XIII) is for humanitarian and other supplies valued at $5 billion. It includes $1.27 billion for food. The Distribution Plan is based on a Government population estimate of 27 million people. More than half of that population is under 15 years of age. Every man, woman and child residing in Iraq receives monthly food rations through the Programme and 60 per cent of the population is totally dependent on them.
The Government purchases food ration items in bulk for the entire country with proceeds from the sale of oil under the Oil-for-Food Programme. It distributes 450,000 tonnes of food every month to the 15 central and southern governorates and to warehouses for the three northern governorates where the UN handles distribution on the government’s behalf. Food distribution is accomplished through a very efficient national network of more than 44,226 privately owned corner stores. Of these: 33,627 are in the 15 central and southern governorates and 10,599 in the three northern governorates.

Advance distribution
Although the Government has been distributing the monthly food ration up to three months in advance, the food basket for the last three distribution cycles has been short in its usual quotas of cooking oil (83 per cent of ration); pulses (beans, which are high in protein) have also been in short supply (33 per cent and 16 per cent of the quota) in the last two cycles respectively. When these shortfalls and the common practice of many poor families to sell part of their rations to pay for other needs are accounted for, each 30-day ration may actually be sufficient for less than 20 days.

Nutrition gains under Oil-for-Food
The nutritional value of the monthly food basket distributed countrywide has almost doubled since 1996, from about 1,200 to about 2,200 kilocalories per person per day. Since then, food supplies valued at more than $10.6 billion (30 November 2002) have arrived in Iraq through the Oil-for-Food Programme.

Malnutrition rates in 2002 in the 15 central and southern governorates are half those of 1996 among children under the age of five. Preliminary findings indicate a reduction in the number of underweight children from 23% in 1996 to 10% in 2002, chronic malnutrition from 32% in 1996 to 24% in 2002 and acute malnutrition from 11% in 1996 to 5.4% in 2002. During the same period for the three northern governorates, there has been a 20% reduction in acute malnutrition, a 56% reduction in chronic malnutrition and a 44% reduction in the incidence of underweight children in the under-five age group.

Last updated 26 February, 2003


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