Western Sahel Hunger AlertPosted by: admin | Posted on: July 31, 2008
More than half a million people in five countries – Mauritania, Senegal, the Gambia, Cape Verde and Mali – are on the frontline of a drought.
The governments of Mauritania and the Gambia have already declared national disasters and appealed for emergency food aid.
Mauritania lies at the epicentre of the food crisis, with an estimated 420,000 people out of a total population of 2.7 million at risk of starvation.
First, a January storm killed tens of thousands of the livestock on which households depend for making it through Mauritania’s hungry season.
Then, in June & July, late, low and erratic rainfall delayed the start of the cropping season, possibly for good in some areas.
With farming communities across Mauritania already suffering from a poor 2001 harvest, the natural disasters have drained grain reserves and forced families to skip meals to cope with the food shortages.
Many people are borrowing money against the next harvest – whose outcome is likely to be poor – to pay for what little food can be found on rural markets.
Evidence of malnutrition now abounds in the form of exhaustion & loss of weight, night blindness, dehydration, diarrhoea and hunger-related deaths.
Cape Verde is also facing severe food shortages.
The harvest for 2002 was 23 percent less than in the previous year, and a recent food assessment showed that many families have eaten their seed reserves, leaving them nothing to plant in the next harvest.
In June and for the first time in more than 20 years, the Government appealed for international food aid to help cope with the increasing hunger and deteriorating living conditions.