Mauritania: OPEC contributes to food emergency

ABIDJAN, 18 February (IRIN) - The OPEC Fund for International Development has donated US $300,000 to support an emergency operation by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Mauritania, where hundreds of thousands of people are threatened with starvation, WFP reported on Monday.
The contribution is to be used by WFP to purchase and deliver emergency food rations to help feed people suffering from the cumulative effects of three consecutive years of drought, WFP said. Mauritania is the worst-hit country in West Africa's Sahel region where drought has led to extensive food shortages.

"With farming communities across Mauritania already suffering from a poor 2001 harvest, the natural disasters have drained grain reserves and forced families to skip meals to cope with the food shortage," WFP said. "People in most rural areas are barely getting by and acute malnutrition is increasing child mortality rates."

WFP said the island nation of Cape Verde - off Africa's Atlantic coast - was also suffering from the consequences of a failed harvest in 2002. Many families had eaten their seed reserves and had none for the next planting season. "In June 2002, and for the first time in more than 20 years, the Cape Verdian Government appealed for international food aid to help cope with the increasing food shortages and malnutrition," WFP said.

Food shortages were also reported in The Gambia, Western Mali and Senegal.

"Last month, WFP appealed for US$28 million to help feed 420,000 people in southern Mauritania, as well as 160,000 people in Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mali and Senegal. Following the OPEC Fund's donation, the agency has now received confirmed contributions amounting to 10 percent of requirements," WFP said.


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