- Eight of every ten children under five years suffer from anaemia in southern Mauritania, which jeopardises child development, in addition to the country's productivity and economic development, according to a new survey. And now, the lean period only begins.
According to data compiled by the organisation Action Against Hunger Spain, the situation in Mauritania continues to worsen, especially in the relative fertile south of the country. While last year's figures by far exceeded the global acute malnutrition threshold set by WHO (15%), in Mauritania in general and Gorgol region in particular, levels have increased alarmingly during 2008, affecting more than 21% of the child population in the south.
This month, July, marks the beginning of the so-called "soudoure" or lean period, a hard time traditionally marked by food shortages, in which the population has consumed food stocks secured during the March harvest in March and stocks will not be refilled until the next harvest in October. As a result, the nutritional status of the population will further be severely undermined, the organisation warns.
To this situation, very similar to other countries of the Sahel, other aggravating circumstances are added, such as the increase in the price of staple foods. Rice has risen by 50 percent over last year while the price of cooking oil has been doubled, causing a decrease in the purchasing power of affected rural people.
According to the survey conducted by Action Against Hunger Spain, the nutritional crisis has also been compounded by low levels of stocks of grain stored in the villages who rely on imports for 70 percent of consumption; poor rainfall in the winter period during 2007 or conversely, the floods in other parts of the region and the limited capacity of the national health system to cope with a deterioration of the nutritional status of the population.
The organisation has proposed, on the one hand, to reduce mortality risks from acute malnutrition of the population living in the agro-pastoral zone in the region of Gorgol and on the other hand, detect, prevent and treat cases of acute malnutrition mainly through use of RUTF - Ready to Use Therapeutic Food - based on a peanut paste enriched with vitamins and minerals and high on energy, which provides all the food necessary to meet their food needs for the whole week.
Following this action, the organisation says it will propose a long-term programme of nutritional care that emphasises on an integrated approach; including water and sanitation, food security and nutrition. This is part of a framework for the prevention of malnutrition, one of the keys to solving this serious problem, according to the organisation.
The Spanish branch of Action Against Hunger has worked in Mauritania since 2007, focusing on water sanitation and food security projects. Its programmes receive funding from both the Spanish and the Catalan agencies of development cooperation.
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