Iraqis Protest Rise in Food Prices, Officials Blame Ukraine War

Iraqis demonstrate to denounce rising prices of basic food items, in al-Haboubi Square in the center of Iraq's city of Nasiriyah in the southern Dhi Qar province on March 9, 2022. (AFP)
Iraqis demonstrate to denounce rising prices of basic food items, in al-Haboubi Square in the center of Iraq's city of Nasiriyah in the southern Dhi Qar province on March 9, 2022. (AFP)
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Iraqis Protest Rise in Food Prices, Officials Blame Ukraine War

Iraqis demonstrate to denounce rising prices of basic food items, in al-Haboubi Square in the center of Iraq's city of Nasiriyah in the southern Dhi Qar province on March 9, 2022. (AFP)
Iraqis demonstrate to denounce rising prices of basic food items, in al-Haboubi Square in the center of Iraq's city of Nasiriyah in the southern Dhi Qar province on March 9, 2022. (AFP)

Protests erupted Wednesday in Iraq's impoverished south over a rise in food prices that officials attributed to the conflict in Ukraine.

For about a week, the price of cooking oils and flour have skyrocketed in local markets as government officials have sought to address growing anger with various statements and measures.

More than 500 protesters gathered in a central square in the southern city of Nasiriyah -- a flashpoint of anti-corruption protests that gripped the country in 2019.

"The rise in prices is strangling us, whether it is bread or other food products," retired teacher Hassan Kazem said. "We can barely make ends meet."

On Tuesday, the Iraqi government announced measures to confront the increase in international prices.

These included a monthly allowance of about $70 for pensioners whose income does not exceed one million dinars (almost $700), as well as civil servants earning less than 500,000 dinars.

The authorities also announced the suspension of customs duties on food products, basic consumer goods and construction materials for two months.

Trade ministry spokesman Mohamed Hanoun attributed the rise in cooking oil prices to the conflict in Ukraine.

"There's a major global crisis because Ukraine has a large share of (the world market in cooking) oils," he said.

On Tuesday, a protester was seriously injured in a demonstration in the central province of Babil that was marred by violence, a security source said.

The interior ministry announced it had arrested 31 people accused of "raising the prices of food commodities and abusing citizens".

A protester in Nasiriyah on Wednesday denounced the "greed of traders who manipulate prices".

Both Russia and Ukraine are major producers of foodstuffs, including sunflower oil and wheat, and the Middle East is particularly dependent on imports from the two countries.

Iraq was rocked by nationwide protests in 2019 against rampant corruption, a lack of job opportunities and poor living conditions.

More than 600 people were killed and tens of thousands injured during the demonstrations.



Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces agreed with the United Nations on some steps to ease aid delivery in areas under its control, a member of the RSF told Reuters on Thursday.

The Sudanese army has not reached any understandings on aid delivers with the RSF, he added. It is unclear if these steps could be implemented without the army's participation.

Meanwhile, a key supply route into Sudan's Darfur region, deemed at risk of famine by a global monitor, has been cut off due to heavy rains, a World Food Program official told Reuters on Thursday.
The UN agency has described Sudan as the world's biggest hunger crisis, with the western Darfur region most at risk as Sudan's 15-month civil war that has displaced millions and sparked ethnic violence grinds on.
WFP's Country Director Eddie Rowe said thousands of tons of aid are stranded at the Tina crossing on the Chad border, prompting the body to reopen talks with the army-aligned government to open an alternative, all-weather crossing further south called Adre.
"You have these huge rivers. As I speak now, our convoy, which is supposed to move over 2000 metric tons is stranded," he told Reuters from Port Sudan. Asked on the status of the talks that resumed this week, he said: "It's 50/50.”
WFP is now seeking clearances to move a large 70-truck convoy via a little-used, over 1000 kilometer route from Port Sudan to Darfur which Rowe said will involve crossing the battle lines of both the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces and various militias.
He added that this mostly desert route has worked in the past but outside of the rainy season and that the last journey took weeks and was "fraught with a lot of challenges.”
In a separate interview, Mona Rishmawi, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan, told Reuters that she had met Darfur refugees in Chad who told her stories of escaping with virtually no water and eating grass along the route. "There's no doubt that people are starving," she said.