Iraq: UN agency expands cash-for-work scheme

17 August 2010

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is expanding the scope of its cash-for-work programme in Iraq in a bid to help more than 11,000 vulnerable people in areas hardest hit by violence.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is expanding the scope of its cash-for-work programme in Iraq in a bid to help more than 11,000 vulnerable people in areas hardest hit by violence.

The WFP scheme provides beneficiaries with short-term employment in agricultural infrastructure projects with the long-term aim of ensuring they do not lack food.

“Cash-for-work projects work really effectively in places where food is available in the market yet people cannot afford it – as is the case in Iraq,” said Edward Kallon, WFP’s Country Director for Iraq. “This project not only gives beneficiaries a job but it secures future food production by focusing on the agricultural sector,” he added.

The project is being implemented in Diyala and Baghdad governorates, where many people have returned from overseas or from elsewhere in the country to find their properties looted and jobs lost.

WFP piloted the scheme earlier this year as part of the so-called Diyala Initiative, which included measures to help with the resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and other vulnerable groups.

“Thank God for this chance – now I can buy food for my family; I bought them meat for the first time in months,” said Haytham Abd Kathem, one of the 500 workers on the Diyala project.

The programme is being expanded with the support of $5 million from the United States.

Participants will be paid the Iraqi dinar equivalent of $10 per day for a three-month period, with supervisors paid the equivalent of $13 a day. The pay rates have been set below the average daily wage of $13 to $17 for labourers, so that it benefits only the most vulnerable members of the community who might not otherwise be able to find work.

WFP will be paying beneficiaries in cash in the beginning, while exploring the possibilities of using electronic technology, such as smart cards, to facilitate payments and minimize risk.

Cash-for-work activities are selected based on the community’s priorities and could include the clearing and rehabilitation of sewage and irrigation canals, tree planting, rehabilitation of farmland and improving sanitation.

While Iraq is potentially a rich country with large oil deposits, decades of war, misrule and instability have led to a deterioration in its infrastructure and social services. As a result, many people are poor and vulnerable. A 2008 survey estimated that 930,000 Iraqis need food assistance and an additional 6.4 million would become “food insecure” without the country’s public distribution system, which provides food rations to all citizens.

 

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