The World Food Programme (WFP) began trucking food in quantity to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Thursday from its base in Jordan. A convoy of 50 private trucks carrying wheat flour were about 200 km inside Iraq by early evening and were expected to reach the capital by Friday noon.
"Assuming this convoy gets to Baghdad without any problems, then we've got another 6,000 mt of wheat flour ready to send through straight away," Khaled Mansour, a WFP spokesman in the Jordanian capital, Amman, told IRIN.
Thursday's shipment establishes a critical humanitarian corridor into Iraq's central provinces, including the capital, which has a population of 5 million.
Although the 50 trucks carrying 1,400 mt of flour have no military escort along the road from Jordan's border to Baghdad, Mansour said the coalition had been informed and that security assurances had been received.
"Today is just a drop in the ocean, as we really need on average 300 trucks every day passing from Jordan into Iraq to bring in about 300,000 mt of food per month," Mansour pointed out.
Although there have been serious security problems in Baghdad, as a result of which some WFP and government food warehouses have been looted, the agency is confident that local staff could ensure a secure reception for Thursday's convoy.
WFP wants to ensure any food aid brought into Iraq is distributed in an orderly way that targets the most vulnerable. For this reason, the food due to reach the capital on Friday, and any subsequent consignments, will only be distributed once a proper infrastructure involving local and international WFP staff, as well as reliable Iraqi counterparts, is in place. "This would mean food will probably not be given out until early May," Mansour noted.
"WFP's efforts to get aid to Iraq are picking up momentum just in time. Most of the population could start running out of food in a couple of weeks," WFP Executive Director James T. Morris said in an agency press release.
Food aid is already flowing into northern Iraq via Turkey. Iran has also given the green light for humanitarian agencies to cross its border to deliver food and medical supplies. A WFP food convoy is currently at the border and is expected to cross into Iraq on Friday from Iran and head for the northeastern city of Sulaymaniyah.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions