Food situation in drought-hit Mauritania 'alarming': WFP
A WFP team led by Mali's ambassador to the United Nations' food aid organisation, Ibrahim Bocar Daga, and including its director for west Africa, Manuel Aranda da Silva, said Wednesday after visiting Mauritania that the maximum alert should be launched concerning the country's food situation.
Daga told reporters that the WFP team had "visited areas abandoned by people and their animals" and met "people with nothing, who are still trying to adapt" to the climatic changes that have hammered Mauritania.
Last year was the third year in a row that rains that usually begin in June-July started very late.
When it did come, the rainfall was inadequate, forcing the government to issue an international appeal for aid on September 1 last year.
The lack of rain, or the fact the rain that did come fell in unusual, cold and stormy patterns, have left peasant farmers unable to sow their sorghum and millet crops. More than 100,000 head of cattle have died.
Daga called for urgent international aid for Mauritania, and praised efforts made by Nouakchott and the Mauritanian people to face up to the drought and resulting famine.
But he condemned "a drop in development aid, whose providers have fallen silent, creating a serious situation for all of humanity."
WFP will provide Mauritania with 44,000 tonnes of emergency food aid and nutritional products to add to some 5,300 tonnes of grain it recently gave to the Nouakchott government for distribution to the most needy.
At the end of January, the WFP called on the international community to provide emergency aid to more than half a million people threatened by famine in five countries in Africa's western Sahel region.
"To avert a humanitarian disaster, WFP needs 28 million dollars to quickly purchase food rations to help feed 420,000 people suffering from three consecutive years of severe drought in southern Mauritania, as well as 160,000 people in Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mali and Senegal," a statement issued on January 28 by the WFP's west Africa office in Dakar said.
Da Silva said at the time that the "worst hit country in the region is Mauritania, where people in the poorest areas are facing the biggest food crisis in years and the number of needy is skyrocketing.
He called the situation in Mauritania's southern Aftout region "Africa's most hidden food crisis" and lamented that Mauritania was "not on the aid radar of donor countries."
Last week, Ramin Rafirasme, a WFP spokesman, said only 10 percent of the funding necessary to tackle the famine had been gathered.
hos-at/kdz/nb AFP 271145 GMT 02 03
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