Mauritanians face severe food crisis

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Written by Catherine Ntabadde

Over one million Mauritanians face a severe food crisis in the coming months if urgent action is not taken. The situation is due to erratic rainfall, drought, insect infestations as well as rising food prices.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal on behalf of the Mauritanian Red Crescent to provide food for livestock, distribute seeds and tools to families, support health centers in preventing malnutrition especially among children and start implementing long term solutions.

The cereal production noted a decrease of 38% over a five year average, and 52% compared to the previous season. Moreover, Mauritania is unable to produce sufficient food to feed its population and therefore depends greatly on the importation of food (up to 70%).

Malnutrition is now reaching worrying proportions, 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 are respectively 18% and 15.7%.

On 10 November 2011, the Government of Mauritania launched the Plan EMEL (Hope) and declared that it is planning to provide livestock fodder and subsidized cereal sales through government shops to people affected by food insecurity.

The most affected regions on July 2011 are Diffa Hodh El-Charghi (57.2%), Hodh el-Gharbi (44%), Tagant (33.8%), Gorgol (28.5%), Guidimaka (26.5%) and Assaba (26.4%).

Seasonal migration of livestock has started early and many people are leaving their villages in search of pastures.

Mauritania is one of the hardest hit Sahel countries by food production shortfalls so the IFRC and Mauritanian Red Crescent have launched an emergency appeal to be able to act now to prevent a crisis like the one we have seen in the Horn of Africa.