WFP Launches Operation To Feed 30,000 Children In Mauritania
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Published on 18 June 2012

The mother of a beneficiary of blanket feeding in Gorgol displays the ration of Plumpy'Sup received for her 15 month-old son. Copyright: WFP/Nora Hobbs

Alongside other countries in the Sahel region, Mauritania is suffering  from a serious food and nutrition crisis that is hitting the most vulnerable members of the population, including young children. In response, WFP has launched special distributions designed to prevent acute malnutrition in children between 6 and 24 months.

NOUAKCHOTT – WFP launched its 'blanket feeding' programme in Mauritania in early June, in partnership with the Ministry of Health. In order to prevent acute malnutrition, WFP is distributing food to 30,000 vulnerable children in the regions of Gorgol and Brakna.

Financed by a contribution from Canada of US$ 618,000, the programme targets all children between 6 and 24 months in the regions of Gorgol and Brakna. Each child receives a daily ration of Plumpy’Sup, a fortified food supplement, distributed monthly from June through September.

'Blanket feeding' means that all children in a certain age range or target group receive rations, regardless of their nutritional status. This type of response is often used at the start of an emergency to prevent a slide into malnutrition.

We are very proud of our partnership with the Government to launch this new critical initiative given the effects of the ongoing food security crisis, which are particularly felt in the two targeted regions," declared WFP Mauritania Country Director Alan Cordeil.

Priority zones

The regions of Gorgol and Brakna are part of WFP and the Government of Mauritania’s priority zones. Moderate acute malnutrition rates measured during the last nutritional assessment in December 2011 already passed the WHO threshold of alarm of 10% (11.7% in Gorgol and 12.5% in Brakna).

"The high rates measured after the last harvest are alarming as food availability will continue to decrease through the lean season until August, aggravating the food insecurity and nutritional situation of populations in this region," explained Nora Hobbs, WFP Nutritionist. "Blanket feeding activities will allow us to prevent the nutritional degradation of children facing the highest risks of malnutrition thanks to the daily addition of a food supplement."

Towards this end, WFP is introducing in Mauritania a new nutritional product particularly well adapted for this type of intervention, Plumpy’Sup. Plumpy’Sup is a ready-to-use food supplement composed of peanut paste, oil, sugar and micronutrients. Consuming one sachet every two days, the caloric addition of Plumpy’Sup for each child is 250 calories a day.

Government partnership

In preparation for the blanket feeding distributions and the use of this new product, the Ministry of Health with assistance from WFP has trained more than 350 distribution agents in each region. In total, around 180 mobile and fixed sites are planned to provide full coverage to the region.  

"This intervention is extremely beneficial for Mauritania in the prevention of child malnutrition now and in the future," declared the Minister of Health, Ba Housseynou Hamadi. "I am very happy with WFP’s dynamic support. They are providing not only food but are also investing in the capacity building of national structures. WFP’s trainings to the project’s trainers and agents will allow us to undertake this type of activity again in the future."

The blanket feeding campaign launched by WFP is not the only activity planned to improve the living conditions of households in Gorgol and Brakna during the lean season. This nutritional intervention is part of a packet of activities aiming to reduce food insecurity and improve the nutritional situation in this zone. The activities include cereal banks (SAVs) that sell wheat at subsidized prices, and cash transfers followed by general food distributions undertaken at the height of the crisis when markets are empty, targeting 9,750 households in Gorgol and Brakna.

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About the author

Katherine Fackler

Reports and Public Information Officer

Katherine Fackler has worked for WFP since 2010 in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire and now Mauritania.