The United Nations appealed for millions of dollars in aid on Friday to help combat possible food shortages in the desert nation of Mauritania.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement its relief operation there “is facing a complete break in supplies at the end of July — exactly the time of year when food needs are at their annual peak at the height of the ‘lean season’ “.
Floods, drought and a severe locust infestation last year destroyed crops and left millions hungry across the sun-wracked, semi-desert Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert that includes Mauritania, Mali and Niger.
Abdallahi Ould Zeine, a government official who heads Mauritania’s food-security monitoring body, confirmed supplies were running low.
“The government has been distributing food supplies to the neediest for several months,” Zeine said by telephone from Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott. But “national stocks risk running out … we need help”.
WFP said it needed $4-million to fill the gap and keep feeding 382 000 people. It said food prices were rising, and desperate young men had left farms seeking work in towns and cities.
“Lack of support at this critical time would be a massive failure by those who can very easily afford to make a difference,” said WFP’s chief in Mauritania, Sory Ouane.
“Most at risk from the looming break in supplies are WFP’s community cereal reserves, which allow villagers access to food just when the cost of cereal spirals beyond the reach of many,” WFP said. “Should there be a break in supplies, about 350 000 people will have these cereal rations cut by 50%.” — Sapa-AP
Associated Press writer Ahmed Mohammed in Dakar contributed to this report.