The second quarter of 2017 was marked by a number of adverse developments related to food security in Iraq, which is still home to one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world. Due to the unprecedented levels of displacement resulting from operations to retake Mosul and other areas of Ninewa from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), there was a sharp increase in the number of households requiring immediate life-saving assistance.
Based on monitoring by WFP-VAM in Mosul, 1 fewer resident households reported inadequate food consumption than in the first quarter of 2017; however, rates were still high amongst IDPs and returnees. Similarly, more displaced households reported relying on negative coping strategies, and households in general reported relying on credit or support from their social networks to purchase food. Access to the PDS deteriorated amongst Mosul residents, with IDPs facing the greatest difficulties in obtaining their rations.
Elsewhere in the country, some positive developments related to food security could be observed. Markets functionality improved and available price indices showed either modest monthly increases or decreases. Similarly positive is the fact that households have been able to potentially rely increasingly on markets as a source of food. Prices of commodities fell in re-taken areas of Mosul, particularly in the east have fallen dramatically. Markets have been adequately supplied and have quickly become a main source of food for the population in Eastern Mosul, but residents, who frequently lack access to income-generating opportunities, have been forced to rely on credit to purchase it. Based on WFP-VAM monitoring, the cost of a food basket remained significantly higher (30% higher in May) in urban Mosul than in the rest of the governorate..
While harvest figures were not yet available, agrometeorological conditions throughout the 2016- 2017 growing season suggested favorable wheat and barley harvests. In areas less affected by active conflict, however, efforts to restore agricultural livelihoods lagged as resources to rehabilitate the agricultural sector remained insufficient to meet needs. Due to displacement from Mosul, there was a sharp increase in the number of individuals needing and receiving humanitarian assistance. In April alone, the Food Security Cluster (FSC) and its partners reached over 2.2 million beneficiaries through a combination of immediate response rations, family food rations, livelihoods support, e-vouchers, cash-based transfers, cash-for-work and cooked meals. By contrast, in September 2016 (before operations to re-take Mosul began), the number of beneficiaries reached by FSC partners totaled approximately 1.5 million. Nearly 1 million of the beneficiaries reached in April 2017 were in Ninewa, versus 141,786 in September of the previous year. In addition to Ninewa, FSC partners also increased their activities in Dohuk and Anbar.
Meanwhile, numbers of FSC beneficiaries fell in Salah al-Din, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Babil, underscoring the gradual focus of the humanitarian response to the west of the country and as the fight against ISIL focuses on the last remaining areas held by the group. Along these lines, conflict and displacement remain the primary sources of food insecurity in Iraq. Populations affected by displacement, whether they are still IDPs or returnees, are disproportionately affected by food insecurity. Based on monitoring conducted by WFPVAM, rates of inadequate food consumption were highest amongst IDPs, followed by returnees and residents. For Mosul, specifically, there was a sharp deterioration amongst IDPs; as of May, 33% of IDPs had poor or borderline food consumption scores, compared with 26% in April. Even in areas less affected by conflict, the reduced functionality of services such as the PDS makes it difficult for households to obtain predictable levels of support.
In the coming months, humanitarian actors will still need to provide life-saving assistance to the tens of thousands of Iraqis that are expected to be displaced through the remainder of 2017. Displaced families will continue to require ready-to-eat food and dry food rations. Cash transfers, cash-for-work and income-generation activities are necessary to support reconstruction, the restoration of markets, and IDP and refugee returns, and they will continue to be required until conditions change.