The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Tuesday that it has started providing food vouchers to assist half a million Iraqis displaced by the conflict in Iraq -- a new scheme that empowers recipients to choose their own food and prioritise their own needs.
Thanks to a donation of USD five million from Japan and a contribution of USD 2.2 million from Germany, the WFP began distributing the food vouchers in the district of Soran in the governorate of Erbil, reaching an initial group of 500 women and men last week. Distribution of vouchers to a further 1,700 people is set to begin today, said Elisabeth Byrs head of the WFP media office in Geneva in a press briefing.
Displaced people suffer from an uncertain future and a loss of control over everyday life. Food vouchers help to restore a sense of normalcy and choice.
Recipients will be able to redeem them for food items in 11 designated stores. Each person receives a voucher worth USD 26 dollars, she added.
The vouchers will benefit families who have settled in safer locations where food is available in the market but they cannot afford to purchase it. Within the next three months, the WFP plans to distribute food vouchers to half a million displaced Iraqis in the Kurdistan region.
The WFP delivers large amounts of food each year, but increasingly provides hungry people with cash and vouchers to buy food for themselves to meet their preferred dietary needs. Food vouchers support the local economy, and strengthen local markets. In Iraq, the WFP has been assisting Syrian refugees in camps with vouchers since November 2012, injecting almost USD 40 million into the local retail economy. The WFP also distributes food vouchers to Syrian refugees in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Through this system, the local economies of the five countries have received more than USD 500 million since the voucher programmes began in 2012.
In just three months since the outbreak of the crisis that began in Mosul and spread to surrounding cities and governorates, the WFP has assisted more than one million displaced people across 18 governorates. Most of the people received food parcels containing essential items such as rice and cooking oil. Others received Immediate Response Rations that include canned food. Before the latest wave of displacements, WFP was already assisting about 240,000 people displaced by conflict in Iraq's al-Anbar governorate, as well as more than 215,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria, who are sheltering in Iraq.