Tag Archives: Mauritania

U.S. Food for Peace donation saves refugees

The United Nations today announced a life-saving donation from the U.S. Food for Peace program. The US $ 2 million contribution will feed refugees in the African nation of Mauritania. The refugees had fled conflict in neighboring Mali.

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Mali and Mauritania: War, Drought and School Meals

As the new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says, “There has to be an African solution” to the crisis in Mali. The Malian government, backed by French forces, has been striking Al Qaeda-linked militants who had occupied the northern part of the country.

That solution, a lasting peace, will be hard to find if children are hungry, malnourished and not able to even attend school. Their future is being made in a country where hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the war. There was also a severe drought last year which placed even more burden on already impoverished families.

No food, no school. That is the reality in Mali as described by a UN World Food Programme officer. Families are just looking for ways to survive. If you can provide food at school the children will come, and this holds the key to the country’s future.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is launching emergency school feeding in the northern part of Mali. This will feed close to 70,000 children throughout the conflict-affected area. WFP is already feeding 113,000 children in the southern part of the country.

Will there be funding? That is a big question, because WFP relies on voluntary funding from governments and the public. Right now this operation is only 20 percent funded.

The neighboring country of Mauritania is also feeling the impact of the war, having taken in over 70,000 Malian refugees. This creates a great strain on communities that were already suffering in poverty and drought.

The World Food Programme has a school feeding operation in Mauritania to help both the host communities and refugees. The problem is again funding. Last year, WFP was forced to reduce the number of feeding days as well as the size of the food rations. Sophie Ndong, of WFP in Mauritania, says that last year “primary school children were assisted during 80 days only instead of the 160 days planned.”

The funding woes continue for Mauritania as 2013 gets underway. WFP wants to feed 149,128 children school meals but no funding has arrived except for a donation from the University of Guelph of 318,916 emergency meals for primary school children.

WFP also plans to provide school meals to 18,000 refugee children at the Mbera camp and 28,290 children from the surrounding host community. The program costs about $612,000 but no funding has come in.

The plans are there but the resources are not. Catholic Relief Services has school feeding in Mali, making use of a grant from the U.S. McGovern-Dole program. An expansion of this program’s reach could help fund the WFP programs as well and feed hundreds of thousands more children.

Children suffer the most in a crisis because hunger causes them to become stunted in growth and mind. Feeding the children becomes so vital, and if done at school it becomes food for education, and food for hope.

Article first published as Mali and Mauritania: War, Drought and School Meals on Blogcritics.

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Hunger and Fear in the Sahel of Africa

A drought-ravaged field in the Keyes region of southwestern Mali. Already impoverished families lost their food supply and source of income because of the drought. Credits: WFP/ Daouda Guirou

There is a struggle for survival ongoing for millions of people suffering from hunger in the Sahel region of Africa. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says that “one child in five in the Sahel dies before the age of five – malnutrition is an associated cause of more than 30% of these deaths.”

The Sahel includes the countries of Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, the Gambia, and Senegal.

Drought and conflict have caused food shortages, and families can survive only with humanitarian aid as they await the next harvest. There have been some good rains recently to encourage the growing of food. These same rains have also produced flooding that has impacted over a million people in the Sahel.

Refugee Crisis from Mali Conflict

The Sahel food crisis is also complicated because of a massive flow of refugees from Mali. In Northern Mali there has been fighting between the government and armed extremist groups. As one victim told the director of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), “Fear pushed me to leave my home. I saw people being killed in front of me when Gossi was taken over by armed groups at the end of June. I did not want to wait for my turn.”

The US State Department is alarmed by the increasing violence in Northern Mali and is urging a resolution to the conflict, stating, “We repeat the call on armed groups in northern Mali to renounce any connection with terrorist groups and enter into legitimate political negotiations on the basis of Mali’s territorial integrity.” There is significant fear of what may lie ahead should the chaos and hunger continue to proliferate in Mali and throughout the region.

The World Food Programme says it is feeding over 200,000 refugees in the surrounding countries. This includes Mauritania which is hosting over 100,000 refugees while struggling with its own hunger crisis.

The charity Save the Children is urging support for the refugees to prevent malnutrition in the camps. The children need food aid and also psychological and educational support to help them deal with the trauma.

Nutrition for Small Children Critical

Nutritional support for the smallest children is crucial in this crisis The lack of food for children under five years of age causes severe and irreversible physical and mental damage. Surveys being conducted right now by aid workers show high acute malnutrition rates in Senegal, Chad, Niger, and Mauritania.

Save the Children says that throughout the Sahel over one million children are at risk of severe malnutrition. A special food called Plumpy’Nut can save the children from the lifetime damage of malnutrition. Save the Children estimates that 1.5 million cartons of Plumpy’Nut are needed in the Sahel but funding is the issue. Aid agencies are voluntarily funded.

School Feeding to Help Communities

Providing food for children at school is a way to boost recovery for entire communities. The food offers an incentive for parents to send children back to school so it accomplishes both nutritional and educational objectives.

The World Food Programme hopes to resume school meals in the coming weeks in several Sahel nations. But will the funding and food supplies be there to allow these important programs to be carried out? In Mauritania, WFP is reporting a slight delay in its school feeding program due to food supply difficulties.

WFP is planning a major expansion of its school feeding in Mali. Aboubacar Guindo of WFP says the expansion will mean doubling the number of students it feeds in the Southern part of the country. He adds that the funding has yet to be secured.

Funding a Key Issue

Aid agencies need support from both governments and the public. What could be more devastating than not enough resources being dedicated to saving lives? WFP reports “a funding shortfall of US$ 300 million” for the region. Also a special operation for logistics in Mauritania remains completely underfunded, which could harm the delivery of aid.

WFP provides not only food but also logistical and technological support to improved aid delivery. The WFP Emergency Telecommunications cluster, for instance, has developed a radio system which will be implemented in Northern Mali to help improve coordination for the relief effort.

Recovery from one major drought is difficult enough. In the Sahel there have been a succession of droughts and the low resistance levels of the communities involved is a major reason for the crisis. Aid agencies are trying to find a way to provide emergency aid but also plant the seed for future food security.

Relief Funds for the Sahel Food Crisis:

Sahel Food Crisis Fund – World Food Programme

Mali Hunger Crisis Fund – Save the Children

West Africa/ Sahel Hunger Crisis Fund – Save the Children

Sahel Food Crisis Fund – Catholic Relief Services

Article first published as Hunger and Fear in the Sahel of Africa on Blogcritics

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Mauritania: School Meals, Refugee Aid Lack Funding

WFP is providing aid to refugees who fled the conflict in Mali and have been arriving daily in Mauritania and other neighboring countries including Niger.WFP though is facing a funding shortage for its refugee relief mission.
Photo credit: WFP/Alan Mouton

As the hunger crisis deepens in eight countries of the Sahel region of Africa, humanitarian aid should be increasing. This is not the case though in parts of the drought-stricken area.

In Mauritania school meals for children have been reduced by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) due to low funding. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations.

WFP’s March distribution of food to schools in Mauritania was supposed to provide 54 days of meals to the students. With the low funding WFP had to reduce the number of days children could receive meals from 54 to 40.

WFP runs the school feeding for around 150,000 students in nine rural areas where there is malnutrition and poverty. The meals are meant to keep the children in school especially at a time when drought and high prices have made it much harder for families to get food. WFP has struggled to find funding for the school meals program, leaving it constantly vulnerable to reduced rations.

No summer feeding program is available for the school children at present. So these children and their families will be headed into the peak period of the Sahel hunger crisis with one less source of food.

A program of summer take-home rations would provide a much-needed safety net for the 150,000 students, plus their families. This would be a crucial addition to ongoing WFP relief operations such as the provision of plumpy’sup, a special food to help combat potentially life threatening malnutrition in infants.

One of the areas in Mauritania where WFP provides school meals is called Hodh ech Chargui. There are 120,000 Mauritanians in this area, 37 percent of the population, who suffer from hunger.

The severe drought conditions is hard enough to cope with. There are even more challenges. Hodh ech Chargui is also hosting more than 63,000 refugees from a conflict in the neighboring country of Mali. WFP is facing an 86 percent shortage of funds to feed these refugees.

Mauritania, and other neighboring countries, are seeing a daily influx of refugees from Mali. The UN World Food Programme’s director Ertharin Cousin, who just visited the Sahel region, said she met a refugee who said, “everybody wants to leave Mali.” The stream of refugees from Mali is expected to continue. The funding for humanitarian aid has to start flowing more rapidly too.

The international community has to act now to fund all relief operations and be prepared for an increasing number of refugees. If the world acts now, it can help prevent a famine in the Sahel this summer.

Article first published as Mauritania: School Meals, Refugee Aid Lack Funding on Blogcritics.

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Food Running Out for Refugees from Mali Conflict

A Malian family arrives at a refugee settlement in Fassala in the region of Hodh Echargui in eastern Mauritania. (Photo credit: WFP / Malick Ndiaye)

The hunger crisis in the Sahel region of Africa continues to escalate with thousands of refugees from Mali possibly running out of food within weeks.

A conflict in Northern Mali, as well as drought conditions, has forced thousands of people to flee to safety in Mauritania and other neighboring countries. But that safety depends on humanitarian aid from the international community.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is feeding over 56,000 of these refugees in Mauritania. However, WFP warns that by the 15th of May they will run out of supplies. Their refugee relief mission is facing a funding shortage of 11.4 million dollars. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations from the international community.

Around 1,000 refugees arrive daily in Mauritania. With the conflict in Mali far from resolved, things could get much worse.

A rebel group called the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) recently seized power in Northern Mali. The U.S. State Department said earlier this month, that “a separate Azawad state will only exacerbate the grave problems challenging the Malian state. We also call on the MNLA to cease all military operations. We urge all armed groups to engage in dialogue with civilian leaders in Bamako (the capital of Mali) to find a nonviolent path forward for national elections and a peaceful coexistence.”

Until a peace process can move forward, more Malians will flee. This will put even more stress on Mauritania and other host countries. WFP says the refugee crisis has put a “great strain on host communities of the Hodh Echargui” an area of Mauritania where 37 percent of the population is regarded as “food insecure.” Mauritania, even without this refugee crisis, is facing severe hunger because of drought conditions. WFP is also lacking funds to aid Hodh Echargui as well as other areas of the country.

So what you have in Mauritania is a growing influx of refugees mixed with a hunger crisis from drought. Without adequate funding for WFP and other aid agencies, the situation in Mauritania is certain to deteriorate in the coming months.

The Mauritania crisis is part of the larger massive hunger emergency in the Sahel which also includes the countries of Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, the Gambia, Senegal and Cameroon. WFP says it is short of 357 million dollars for its relief operation across the whole region. If donations do not come in soon, aid will be limited in what is considered the peak time period of hunger of May through September.

The international community can act now and avert famine. But it has to be timely. A donation of funds is just the start of the process. Then comes producing/processing and shipping of food.

Navyn Salem, the director of the food producer Edesia, says her company can produce 1000 boxes of supplies a day. Edesia makes a special peanut paste called plumpy’nut which treats infants suffering from severe malnutrition. It’s a food high in demand in the Sahel.

But if aid agencies lack donations they cannot order plumpy’nut from Edesia and other producers in a timely fashion. And time is everything when it comes to food aid. The later the donation, the later the order gets processed and the more people suffer.

Like WFP, UNICEF is also reporting a shortage of over 60 million dollars for its relief of children in the Sahel. If children do not receive the food quickly, they will suffer lasting physical and mental damage.

The international community has a responsibility to act to avoid a potential famine in the Sahel. They need to respond to an area of Africa suffering from conflict and drought. The warnings have been sounded, more so than last year when it came to famine-ravaged East Africa. But are enough people listening?

Article first published as Food Running Out for Refugees from Mali Conflict on Blogcritics.

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Mauritania School Meals Run Out as Drought, High Prices Strike

Impact of Drought in Mauritania: The recent rain deficit in Mauritania has had a severe impact on the land. Many animals have died due to lack of fodder and water leaving families without livestock. (Jacqueline Seeley/WFP)

The hunger emergency in the Sahel region of Africa is fast escalating. Drought and high food prices are taking their toll among millions of already impoverished people across several nations.

Mauritania is one of the countries trapped in this crisis. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports, “Dry spells and poor rainfall distribution during the growing period (July to October) resulted in a sharp decline in cereal production. The 2011 cereal output was estimated…about 53 percent below last year and 39 percent below the previous five years average.”

The ranks of the hungry in Mauritania are rapidly increasing. FAO says there could be over one million people now “food insecure” out of a population of three million. These are families that are already living in poverty and not able to cope with dramatic price increases.

At a time of low crop production and high food prices, the safety net of school meals for children becomes ever so valuable. However, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is so low on funding that supplies are about to run out for the breakfast and lunch it has been providing to schoolchildren throughout Mauritania.

At a time when school feeding should be expanded, in Mauritania it is days away from coming to an end. WFP relies on voluntary donations from the international community.

Jacqueline Seeley, WFP information officer, provides us with more details in the following interview.

How many children are currently taking part in the WFP school feeding program in Mauritania?

145,633 children.

Are the schools in areas impacted by the drought and high food prices?

Yes, greatly. There is presently no funding in the pipeline for the school feeding and given the current crisis, the school feeding programme ensures that children at least receive two meals per day. This takes a large burden off of vulnerable families…as of the end of February families will be forced with the challenge of finding ways to feed their children.

Does WFP have enough resources to continue the meals program?

No. Food in the pipeline lasts until end of February, but after that, there will be nothing. No financing is foreseen given the urgency of the crisis as all donors prefer to finance the emergency response.

Are there more children who need these meals?

This caseload of 145,633 is the maximum caseload we planned for 2012; however the need of children who are hungry is higher, yes, especially with the food crisis.

How can someone get involved with helping WFP Mauritania?

Through wfp.org, money can be sent to WFP to support its operations. For direct contributions to Mauritania, contact jacqueline.seeley@wfp.org.

Article first published as Mauritania School Meals Run Out as Drought, High Prices Strike on Blogcritics.

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