Global perspective Human stories

Without new funds 68,000 hungry Mauritanian children face cut in UN food rations

Without new funds 68,000 hungry Mauritanian children face cut in UN food rations

Children to suffer without enough food supplies
Up to 68,000 young children in Mauritania, already threatened by malnutrition, will have their rations reduced or cut completely at the most critical time of the year unless substantial new contributions are forthcoming, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

“We are raising the flag early,” WFP Country Director Gian Carlo Cirri said, noting that the agency requires a further $14.4 million for its Mauritania operation this year amid concerns that funding has largely dried up in recent months despite the imminent onset of the annual ‘lean season,’ when poor families routinely struggle to find enough to eat.

“We need these funds urgently to ensure there is no break in deliveries to hundreds of feeding centres across the worst affected parts of the country. The system is in place; we absolutely have to keep it supplied.”

Any break in WFP operations will threaten a reversal of the significant gains made in the battle against malnutrition in the largely desert north-west African country in recent years. If urgent funding is not received, WFP faces a break in supplies as early as April, exactly when the ‘lean season’ begins to bite.

A recent food security survey revealed a precarious situation with total cereal production per capita 7.7 per cent lower than the average over the past five years and a consequent rise in prices that has further eroded the already weak purchasing power of subsistence farmers.

Earlier aid has had a positive impact, with the national global acute malnutrition rate dropping to 8.2 per cent from 13.3 percent in 2001, according to a UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) survey. Over the same period, global chronic malnutrition rates dipped from 38.2 percent to 24.5 percent.

“These considerable and hard won gains in the battle against hunger are at risk,” Mr. Cirri said. “At a time when experts are calling for the treatment of malnutrition in Mauritania to be stepped up and strengthened, WFP has its hands tied by a lack of resources.”

According to a WFP study, 165,000 people – 9 per cent of the population – are highly vulnerable and depend on humanitarian aid to survive through the toughest months of the year. Another 180,000 struggle to feed themselves adequately.

“We might not yet be confronted by a major humanitarian crisis, but thousands of Mauritanians depend on WFP to get them through the toughest time of the year,” Mr. Cirri stressed. “We cannot even consider the possibility that we will let them down – and to get the job done we need the support of the international community.”