Set in the Sahelian desert of Mauritania, the Mbera refugee camp has been hosting over 52,000 Malian refugees who have fled violence in the northern part of their country. Unable to return home, the refugees are dependent on humanitarian assistance for their basic needs. The World Food Programme is there to help but needs support to continue coming to the aid of this vulnerale population who is not able to return home whilst the humanitarian and security situation remains precarious in northern Mali.
In the middle of the desert, the entrance to Mbera is marked by a WFP sign. With a recent upsurge of violence in northern Mali - more than 300 refugees arrived in Mauritania since the end of April - it does not look like the refugees will be able to return home any time soon.
WFP provides monthly food distributions to refugees in five different distribution points, spread throughout the camp. Each person receives a supply of rice, pulses, oil and salt so that they can feed themselves and their families.
WFP food aid is an important lifeline, covering the basic needs of refugees who have lost everything, and are living in uncertainty, not knowing when they will be able to return to their homes in Mali. Thanks to the support of our donors, the living conditions of the refugees in the camp have significantly improved. The prevalence of global acute malnutrition, for example, decreased from 20 percent in July 2012 to 9.9 percent in October 2014. The food security situation has also improved. According to a WFP survey from October 2014, 90 percent of the refugees in Mbera have an acceptable food consumption score, compared with 77 percent in October 2013.
An elderly refugee receives assistance from WFP partners to return to his tent with his supply of food.
Most of the refugees in Mbera are women and children, who have specific nutrition needs. Children who have been exposed to undernutrition during their first 1,000 days of life often suffer from decreased physical and cognitive development. WFP provides food to about 2,500 pregnant women, and over 7,300 children to treat malnutrition and stop its potential consequences in their tracks.
Malnutrition can also contribute to infectious diseases in children, such as respiratory infections or diarrhea. With limited health resources, these diseases can have a huge impact on children's health. WFP supports almost 8,500 children under five with fortified nutritious supplements - such as Plumpy'Sup - to help them grow up strong.
Every day, WFP serves up warm, nutritious snacks to 7,500 children in kindergarten and primary schools throughout the camp. Through a school meals programme, over 4,500 children also receive a daily meal at school.
WFP supports food and nutrition security of Malian refugees in Mbera camp in Mauritania through monthly food distributions, nutrition interventions for prevention and treatment of moderate acute malnutrition in children and pregnant and nursing women, and an emergency school feeding programme.
"WFP plans to assist 52,500 refugees until the end of December. However, due to limited resources, we had to temporarily suspend these distributions to refugees in March and we must reduce the size of rations in June and September. Unless additional funds don't reach us in time, WFP may have to stop food distributions from October. This takes place in a context where many vulnerable Mauritanian families are already facing a very difficult food insecurity situation, and WFP's resources are strained," said Janne Suvanto, WFP Mauritania Country Director.
WFP needs USD 3.9 million to be able to continue to protect and assist the Malian refugees in Mauritania over the next six months.
Photos: WFP/Agron Dragaj