Saudi Arabia contributes $149m to feed displaced Iraqis

The UN's food agency plans to reach 1.2 million people by early 2015

Saudi Arabia has contributed nearly $149m to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) to scale up food aid and relief to Iraqis facing the worst food security situation since the early 1990s, according to the UN.

The donation, announced on Tuesday, means WFP can provide food to Christian and Muslim families who have fled Mosul since mid-June and Yazidis seeking refuge in Dohuk in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The UN agency plans to reach 1.2 million people by early 2015, up from the 524,000 Iraqis who have already received food from the agency since mid-June.

“The food security situation in Iraq is alarming,” said Mohamed Diab, director of WFP’s regional bureau for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. “The destruction and confiscation of agricultural produce, widespread insecurity and massive displacement of civilians have resulted in immense hardship and untold human suffering.”

Starting in mid-June, the UN agency has provided 268,000 food parcels of essential items – such as rice and cooking oil – to people in Iraq. Each parcel feeds a family of five for one month.

Following the latest wave of displacement in August, WFP set up eight emergency kitchens in Dohuk to provide hot meals to more than 173,000 people fleeing Sinjar.

“Without this donation, WFP would not have been able to respond so quickly to Iraq’s evolving humanitarian crisis,” said Diab.

Saudi Arabia’s $148.9m donation to WFP is part of an overall commitment by the Kingdom of $500m to UN agencies for humanitarian assistance in Iraq, announced in July.

Dohuk governorate hosts close to 400,000 displaced Iraqis of many faiths, according to figures released by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) on 12 August.

UNHCR reported there are more than 1.2 million internally displaced people in Iraq, including an estimated 700,000 in the Kurdistan region, which already hosts some 220,000 Syrian refugees.