29 December 2011, Dakar/Geneva.- Over one million Mauritanians could face a severe food crisis in the coming months, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned.
The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for CHF 2,131,749 Swiss francs to put in place early measures to mitigate the effects of a severe food and nutrition crisis threatening Mauritania.
The combined effects of poor harvests and lower pastures resulting from erratic rainfall, drought, and rising food prices, has severely reduced the availability of food for tens of thousands of Mauritanians, in particular the poorest households. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s 2012 strategic paper shows that the number of people facing food shortages in Mauritania increased from 428,000 to 838,000 between July and November and predicts that this number could reach 1.2 million people by January 2012, if urgent action is not taken. "In some rural areas, the crisis is already there and we must act now before it deteriorates like we saw in the Horn of Africa," said Mohamed Ould Raby, Secretary-General, Mauritanian Red Crescent.
Malnutrition is now reaching worrying proportions in the country, particularly for children under two years of age. The highest acute malnutrition rates in the country are noted in Brakna and Gorgol, southern Mauritania, where they stand at 18% and 15.7% respectively.
The IFRC appeal aims to support the Mauritanian Red Crescent in assisting 10,000 households. Funds raised will be used to distribute fodder for livestock, seeds and tools for agro-pastoralists, relief food for vulnerable households, and reinforce existing nutrition centres with mobile units. Community-based disaster risk reduction activities will also be implemented to allow people to be less dependent on rainwater for their food security. "The lean period, i.e. the time before the current crops are ready for harvest and there is typically less food, will be particularly severe this year and will last for longer" said Nathalie Bonvin, Regional Food Security, Nutrition and Livelihoods delegate at the IFRC Regional Office in Dakar. “But if we start acting now, a new tragedy may be avoided.” Many Sahel countries including Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Chad are also threatened by a major food shortage and will also need help in the coming months.
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