UN steps up agricultural aid in Iraq with Saudi funds

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Saudi arabia, Middle east, Agriculture

UN steps up agricultural aid in Iraq with Saudi funds
UN agencies are stepping up emergency food and agricultural assistance in Iraq, thanks in part to large donations from Saudi Arabia.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is increasing its aid to rural communities in Iraq, currently under severe threat due to the significantly decreased harvest so far this year. The organisation says much of the increase is possible thanks to a US$14.7m donation from Saudi Arabia, part of a larger US$500m package from the country to assist Iraq.

Harvests hit

The on-going conflict with the Islamic State has dramatically impacted harvests across much of the country, with the regions of Ninevah and Salah al-Din particularly affected. Between them the regions normally produce around a third of Iraq’s wheat and 40% of its barley.

Losses of both assets and income opportunities are exposing a growing number of poor people to an alarming state of food insecurity. Massive displacement of people and inaccessible farmland, as well as disruptions to fuel supplies, harvest subsidies and food supply chains, are affecting the availability of and access to food. The situation is likely to deteriorate as the crisis continues and the emergency situation becomes increasingly complex​,” said Fadel El Zubi, an FAO representative in Iraq.

The FAO will distribute wheat seed and fertiliser for the planting season in October and November, along with animal feed and veterinary supplies. It is also working to support domestic vegetable and poultry production among rural households, and is training people in home food processing, in order to provide livelihoods for affected communities.

This is yet another emergency in the region and our teams are working relentlessly to respond to the needs of farmers and displaced populations in the affected countries - but the needs are huge. We are grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia whose generosity will make a difference in the lives of thousands of people in Iraq. We appeal to the generosity of other donors to help the people of Iraq as the crisis unfolds​,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO assistant director general and regional representative for the Near East and North Africa.

More food aid

The World Food Programme (WFP) is also scaling up its activities in Iraq, after gaining access to Al-Anbar province for the first time since May this year. It also received funding, totalling US$148.9m, from Saudi Arabia’s aid package, and is using it to supply emergency food aid to people across Iraq.

The number of people displaced by violence across Iraq is increasing at an alarming rate and access to certain areas is very difficult. WFP and its partners are working around the clock to provide urgently needed assistance to over 800,000 displaced Iraqis in 10 governorates since June​,” said Mohamed Diab, WFP regional director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and East Europe.

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