Food and Nutrition
By Steven Ehrenberg


A British sailor walks across a cargo of humanitarian aid materials aboard the Royal Force Auxilliary Sir Galahad, which brought the first major cargo of humanitarian aid to southern Iraq. The ship brought tons of sugar, water, tea, and other staples. (Photo Ed Wray/AP Wide World)
On April 21, a thousand people waited on line outside the Baghdad Bakery for bread. "I have waited three hours already for bread," wept one woman. "Why must I do this? Why did America leave us like this? Iraq is empty. There is no food. There is no electricity. There is no security. Why?"

But people left the bakery with long rolls of bread for their meals. When Saddam Hussein was in power, the Baghdad Bakery only baked for the Special Republican Guard—Hussein's innermost ring of bodyguards and military forces.

More than 60 percent of Iraq's population relies on the oil-for-food program to eat. When war began in March, the program was disrupted. Many Iraqis prepared for this by stocking up on food, water, and other supplies. According to the UN, the poorest Iraqis will run out of food in May.

The World Food Program (WFP) is the leading UN organization that supplies the hungry with something to eat. Beginning in December, it prepared for what could happen if Iraqis run out of food. Camps in the neighboring countries of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan were loaded with hundreds of thousands of tons of flour, sugar, vegetable oil, milk, and other nutritional items.

But the problem isn't getting food to Iraq—it's what to do with it once it arrives. The food will be handed out through a vast network of truck drivers, shopkeepers, and store owners. However, nothing can be delivered into unsafe regions. And it's hard to make sure that an area is safe during a war.

The WFP has a three-step plan for filling bellies in Iraq. The first step is out of their control: It is to make cities in Iraq secure for relief workers to deliver food. Once a region is safe, WFP workers can move to the second step: delivering half a million tons of food each month. The third and final steps are to establish programs to help Iraqis provide for themselves. WFP officials estimate that this could happen by July.

Fortunately, food supplies are already rolling into Baghdad, the Iraq's capital and home to more than 5 million Iraqis.

"Our first supply trucks arrived on Sunday [April 20], and we've also been told that no more will be on the way for a couple more days," said U.S. Lieutenant Shawn Gundrum. "That means we might be able to start sending food trucks out to where it's needed within a week. That is ahead of the timetable, but not by much."