"This is an ongoing crisis that requires an urgent response to mitigate a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation and to prevent large-scale loss of life next year," DFID reported on Thursday.
At least 750,000 people have been affected by food shortages in Mauritania, according to WFP. In September 2002, the government made an urgent appeal for 38,000 mt of grain and 14,000 mt of complementary materials to provide emergency relief for people threatened by severe shortages. The appeal, however, did not produce a major response.
In January, the government and its partners reported that they were still unable to obtain sufficient aid for households facing famine. Grain production, which had been low for several years in a row, could meet only 25 percent of the country's annual needs for the period November 2002-October 2003, they said.
"Farming communities across Mauritania face bleak prospects until the next harvest in November 2003," said WFP which appealed on 28 January for US $28 million to buy food for 580,000 drought-affected people in the western Sahel: 420,000 in Mauritania and 160,000 in Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mali and Senegal.
DFID said OXFAM would work to improve food and income security with six local implementing partners. "The project is to provide assistance for 36,280 beneficiaries in the most badly affected areas in the south of the country," it said. "The main output will be food distribution for 36,280 beneficiaries but there will also be capacity-building projects such as support to vegetable farmers, studies into safe drinking water, and food security and nutritional surveillance."
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