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Mauritania: Government provides free, subsidized food (Agence France-Presse, Radio France Internationale)

Fatimata is a mother of five children who lives in a small house in the popular district of Medina 3, in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott. She says it is hard to feed her family because prices have increased. She remembers that a kilogram of milk powder used to cost 1,000 Ouguiyas (about 4.1 American dollars or 2.6 Euros). She must now pay 1,500 Ouguiyas (about 6.3 American dollars or 4 Euros). She complains that since President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi came to power about a year ago, everything has become very expensive, and wages have not increased.

In response to rising prices, the Mauritanian government last month put in place a plan to distribute free food to the needy, a “work for food” operation, and subsidized cereal prices, for a period of six months.

Giancarlo Cirri is the representative of the World Food Programme in Mauritania. He said that Mauritania, where 70 per cent of food is imported, faces the combined effects of rising oil prices, increased costs for raw materials, and rising food prices, in addition to the reorganization of key seaway trade routes and weakening currency.

In this largely desert country, the price of rice increased by 78 per cent and wheat by 92 per cent between March 2007 and March 2008. Last November, one person died and 13 were wounded during demonstrations against the high cost of living in the southern region of the country.