Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- The World Food Programme (WFP) Friday called for greater international assistance to address worrying levels of malnutrition, particularly in the south and south-east of Mauritania.
It said though food distributions were improving conditions for thousands of people and the rainy season has generated vital pasture and promise of an imminent harvest for the subsistence farmers of the south, the situation remains precarious.
The UN agency said in a statement that it was "increasingly concerned" at continued high levels of malnutrition among young children, predominantly in geographical areas outside the zone of its current interventions.
"Information from the affected areas indicates that where we are distributing, and where the rains have been good, food security is improving," said Sory Ouane, WFP Mauritania country director.
"However, it is also clear that we are fighting an uphill battle against child malnutrition.
We plan to expand our operation to include other badly affected areas and target the most vulnerable children there," he noted.
Mauritania was particularly badly hit by last year's massive locust invasions and its people have suffered the ravages of successive droughts, and is in need of much more international assistance to tackle both its immediate and long-term malnutrition problem, Ouane said.
Last year's cereal production was down 36 percent on the five-year average, while prices on the markets have been high this year, in many cases beyond the reach of the poorest, making an already uncertain existence even more fragile for many.
Under its current relief operation, WFP Mauritania has already distributed close to 20,000 metric tonnes of food worth US$11.
4 million to some 400,000 people through various interventions - including free distributions - all targeted at the most vulnerable.
Distributions to 16,000 children and their mothers are also underway in over 200 supplementary feeding centres.