afrol News, 6 April - The UN agency World Food Programme (WFP) this week has launched an urgent appeal for US$ 7.5 million to help 250,000 Mauritanians affected by natural disasters. The area affected by the heavy off-season rains in January in southern parts of the country accommodates thousands of families having lost everything in the devastating rains. Now, there is drought.
WFP is reported to have asked for funds to pay for an estimated 16,000 metric tons of aid to be provided to the affected households. 70,000 of these victims would, from 1 April to 30 September, be rationed with rice, beans, and vegetable oil. Then, the remaining victims would be supplied with simple cereal rations from June to September, the UN media IRIN quoted WFP.
The areas affected most severely by the January storms are the Aleg Plateau and the in Senegal River Valley, the southern, most fertile parts of the Sahelian/Saharan country. The rains have been followed by a drought, leaving the devastated fields and pastures without any production at all.
According to the last Mauritania report by the US agency Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS), the aftermath of the storms' damages are now "forcing disaster victims to alter their traditional lifestyles." Countless families, having lost everything, had "no way of engaging in any sort of productive or income-producing activities before the upcoming rainy season."
A significant part of the livestock also died as effect of the rains, and the "withering grasslands" pastures, which had "begun to rot" already last month, are now not sustaining the already weakened, surviving livestock. Stock animals normally are of great importance for the prevention and management of food crises.
WFP and the Mauritanian Food Security Commission (Commissariat de la Securité Alimentaire) are to coordinate the emergency food aid to the victims of the disaster. WFP is providing Mauritania US$ 22 million and 30,000 metric tons of aid over five years, under its current budget, IRIN reports. A WFP delegation was to visit Mauritania in April to review the country's needs for rural development and food security, education and health, from 2003 through 2008.
Meanwhile, cereal prices are still rising in Mauritania as an effect of the disastrous season, severely affecting the ability of the poor to buy food. Farmers and herders in the Senegal River Valley are surviving on illegally imported grains (rice and wheat) from Senegal, local reports say.
There are also reports of mass migration by area residents into northern Senegal, either hoping to benefit from aid handouts or in search of employment in farming areas. However, this Senegalese area was also heavily affected by the January storms and experiences high food insecurity.