Monday, June 19, 2006

International Development: WFP appeals for urgent aid to head off food shortages in Mauritania

Children lap up porridge at a feeding centre in Mauritania

Some 380,000 Mauritanians could go hungry at the end of July unless donors stump up US $4 million for UN feeding programs, the World Food Programme warned in a statement on Friday.

The floods, droughts and locust infestations that have afflicted Mauritania in recent years are not expected to be repeated this year. But WFP said the succession of natural disasters has devastated rural livelihoods and left many people in the arid West African country unable to feed themselves.

"The work of WFP, the government and other organisations has gone a long way towards helping the poor deal with these difficult times, but this year we face a situation where we simply don't have the funds to continue our assistance beyond July," warned WFP Country Director in Mauritania, Sory Ouane.

The funding shortfall comes at Mauritania's most difficult period – the annual lean season. Every year belts are tightened as food stocks run low and vegetation for grazing herds is sparse until annual rains begin in July and August.

"The simple fact is many of Mauritania's rural poor, some of the poorest in the world, are relying on WFP, the government and NGOs to sustain them during this lean season. Lack of support at this critical time would be a massive failure by those who can very easily afford to make a difference," he added.

As supplies of food have dwindled in recent years, prices have risen, say WFP, putting even basic products like cereal out of reach of many people the UN says are among the poorest in the world.

According to WFP assessments, Mauritanians urgently need cereal to compensate for rising food prices and the knock-on effect of plummeting livestock prices, which WFP says have dropped by 22 percent in some areas.

Reproduced with the kind permission of IRIN
IRIN 2006
Photo: Copyright
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