More than one million Iraqis receiving food aid from WFP

By Chris Arsenault ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than 1 million Iraqis are now receiving emergency food aid, the World Food Program (WFP) announced this week, and Raed Hamdoon is one of them. He fled the northern city of Mosul on foot in June with his four daughters as fighting intensified, and they have taken refuge in the relative safety of Kurdistan, along with more than 850,000 other Iraqis. "We escaped (Mosul) because we feared for our lives," Hamdoon said in an email interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, translated by an aid group. "When we first arrived (at a refugee camp in northern Iraq) we used to receive a little food that was not enough for me and my family." Now, they are receiving assistance packages from the WFP and are able to cook rice, pasta and tahini. Not everyone is so lucky. Many have been unable to reach refugee camps where food aid is available and are living on the sides of roads, under bridges or in construction sites. "Throughout the country, more than 1.8 million people have been displaced since mid-June and are living in precarious conditions – many without access to food, water or other basic essentials," WFP spokeswoman Marwa Awad said in an email from Arbil, the Iraqi Kurdish capital. The WFP believes 1.2 million displaced Iraqis require food aid, but faces a funding shortfall of $35 million to meet this need. The rise of Islamic State, a Sunni militant group that has declared an Islamic Caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq it controls, has provoked a strong reaction among western powers and some countries in the region. A U.S.-led coalition of nations has launched air attacks on IS positions in Iraq and Syria, but it remains unclear whether the bombing campaign will lead to a new wave of refugees, or will allow some refugees to return home. However the military situation develops, the WFP and other aid groups said the displaced people need more help. "I pray for a miracle that within six months or so we could be back home," Hamdoon said. "If I am still a displaced person in the next 2 years then I hope to leave Iraq altogether." (Reporting By Chris Arsenault, editing by Tim Pearce)