"I am bit worried about the international mobilisation" of funds, WFP Country Director Philippe Guyon-Le Bouffy told IRIN from his office in Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott.
Since 3 April, when the appeal was launched, donations have been received only from Finland, which has given US $200,000 and Italy, $91,000 although, Guyon Le-Bouffy said on Tuesday, some new pledges have been made. These include a promise to fund the purchase of 235mt of oil and a commitment from Ireland to contribute 640mt of wheat.
The US $7.5 million would be used to buy large quantities of salt, wheat, rice and cooking oil for some 250,000 Mauritanians who face serious food shortages as a result of a poor farming season and inclement weather earlier this year, which destroyed crops and livestock. The food aid would go mainly to residents of the southern region, bordering northern Senegal, which was also affected by the floods and drought.
The absence of staple food items and the high cost of such commodities, when they are available, have forced people to adopt "survival strategies" such as migrating to major cities or neighbouring countries and borrowing money. Some have also been depending increasingly on wild seeds and grains. This is beginning to worry authorities as people are picking unripe seeds, which could cause diarrhoea and food poisoning, thus worsening their already poor health, the WFP official said.
Traditionally, people in the affected areas start picking such seeds around June. The fact that this year, some people began doing it several months earlier shows that the problem is "serious", Guyon-Le Bouffy said.