afrol News, 13 May - The Mauritanian government yesterday launched a five-day workshop together with the World Food Program (WFP) in Nouakchott to focus on the role of nutrition within the urgent development effort of the country. The UN agency was asked to assist with food in programmes of rural development, basic education and health care of pregnant women and infants. The current food crisis in the south had accentuated the request.
Sufficient nutrition is a basis for all development. According to UNICEF, good nutrition is the cornerstone for health and development. "Well-nourished children perform better in school, grow into healthy adults and in turn give their children a better start in life." Mauritania has a high rate of malnutrition. According to the latest data of UNICEF, 9.2 percent of Mauritanian children aged 0-5 years suffer from "severe underweight," while a total of 23.0 percent of the same age group suffers from underweight.
Mohamed Ould Nany, Mauritanian Minister of Economy, thus opened the Nouakchott workshop, emphasising on "the special nutritional needs of young children," according to the Mauritanian news agency AMI. In securing other developmental aims, adequate nutrition was a key "investment in the human capital for poor households".
The Minister especially mentioned the needs of the many households affected by the natural disasters in the southern parts of the country - victims of rain storms and later drought - "whose food safety depends on the degraded natural resources." In southern Mauritania, the WFP is engaged in emergency aid for a large number of households that lost all means of supporting themselves after this year's natural disasters, severing an environmental degradation crisis that has gone on for decades.
The Mauritanian government asked the WFP permanent representative in Nouakchott, Philippe Guyon Bouffy, to secure the continuation of the UN agency's work in the country as the WFP is due to make decisions on its program for the period 2003-2008.
Meanwhile, cereal prices are registered to be increasing all over the country due to the natural disaster in Mauritania's south. According to the US famine early warning agency, FEWS, sorghum prices are reaching a level only experienced during the severe food crises of 1972 and 1984. Even in the Nouakchott market, prices had increased significantly during the last month. New imports of millet and rice however had made the price of these cereals fall somewhat in the capital. In rural areas, prices of all types of cereals are still high.
The WFP in April an urgent appeal to international donors for US$ 7.5 million to aid the 250,000 Mauritanians who are threatened by the serious food shortages in the south of the country. According to FEWS, aid to Mauritanian famine victims is insufficient to help them "develop survival strategies." The rural exodus to urban centres is booming as families were selling off all their remaining valuables just to be able to survive.
Today, the UN reports that its food agency again is issuing "an urgent appeal" to feed Mauritanians who are threatened by serious food shortages. In a statement released in Nouakchott on Sunday, WFP had said that, as part of the relief effort, 70,000 people in the worst-hit areas north of Gorgol, north-east of Brakna and south-west of Assaba, would receive rations of rice, beans and vegetable oil from April through September. For four months beginning in June, 180,000 people in the Aleg Plateau, the Senegal River valley and south of the two Hodhs wouldl be supplied with simple cereal rations.