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Mauritania School Meals Run Out as Drought, High Prices Strike

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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.

 

 

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)

 

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.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.