WFP Chief Sees At First Hand Food And Nutrition Challenges In Mauritania
NOUAKCHOTT – Seeing the challenges facing nearly 1 million food-insecure people amid rising malnutrition, the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned that a shortage of funding could have drastic consequences for vulnerable Mauritanians and Malian refugees.
“Mauritania has borne the brunt of recurring food crises, chronic malnutrition and instability spilling over from neighbouring Mali,” said Ertharin Cousin. “We are especially concerned about the serious malnutrition situation affecting 14 percent of Mauritania’s children under five.”
During a two-day visit, Cousin travelled to Mbera refugee camp and neighbouring host communities in southern Mauritania, on the border with Mali. She met refugees, including women at a community centre and children at a school in the camp; and mothers and their malnourished children at a local health centre. She also held meetings with the authorities, donor community, WFP staff, and UN sister agencies and partners.
With security in northern Mali still precarious, nearly 50,000 refugees need humanitarian assistance to meet their food needs. A shortage of funding this year led to refugees receiving reduced food rations at times that meet only about half their nutritional needs.
“WFP appeals for support so that the Malian refugees do not miss out on life-saving assistance. Mothers such as Maya and Hadima told me that they can’t go back to their homes until it’s safe again. They need our support,” said Cousin. “We know that the resources of donor countries are stretched by so many emergencies around the world, but WFP is committed to continue to provide vital food and nutrition assistance to all Malian refugees and more than half a million Mauritanian in the grips of food insecurity and malnutrition.”
As schools resume shortly, WFP is preparing to provide nutritious, hot meals to more than 150,000 children across the country. These meals are a lifeline for children as many parents struggle to provide two daily meals to their families. But without urgent support, WFP has sufficient resources only for two months of its 2015-2016 school meal programme.
With less than half of WFP’s funding needs in Mauritania met, WFP needs US$11 million to respond to urgent and immediate needs.
WFP estimates that one in four people are food-insecure, meaning they do not have enough food to eat to lead healthy lives. Of these, more than 200,000 people are severely food insecure and need immediate, life-saving assistance. Female-headed families are the most affected.
Latest figures show that Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates in many (six out of 15) regions (including the region visited by Cousin) are above 15 percent, up to 28 percent – almost double the World Health Organization (WHO)’s critical emergency threshold. Across the country, the GAM rate increased by over four percent from 2014, to 14 percent in 2015.
WFP works closely with the Government of Mauritania and its partners to meet immediate needs while promoting sustainable long-term development through resilience building and social protection programmes.
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.
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