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Mauritania: life goes on slowly in the shade

In the villages of Gorgol and Brakna regions, where we’re responding to the devastating Sahel food crisis, life goes on slowly in the shade.

There are colourful fabric tents and mats to lie down on to eat and rest while chatting over tea. The sun removes any trace of humidity and it’s essential to constantly drink water to avoid dehydration.

We’re in the cool season but it can still be 40 degrees in the shade. At night, the temperature is never lower than 30.

The sun burns and the sand sticks to my skin, although there is a gentle breeze sometimes.

At the end of the summer, temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees in the shade. “Then it is really hot,” says my colleague Zeinabou.

Streams turn to dust

For the second year in a row there’s a drought in Sahel. The streams are empty, dry wounds in the soil.

Animals come to drink but they don’t find anything but dust. They don’t have anything to eat either.

During this time of year, it normally rains several days a week but we’ve been here a week and haven’t seen a drop.

Cows, goats and camels smell the ground looking for grass. Many have already died. The ones that live have their skin attached closely to their ribs and walk slowly.

They don’t have any energy and can’t produce milk anymore, and they too look for shade to lie in to rest and recover any energy that allows them to look for pasture and water. Those that can’t stand up will die.

The well is empty

We stop at a village in Gorgol, where more than half the livestock has died.

The well where they collect drinking water is empty. People search for water at a pond 12km away. The chief of the village explains to us the water from the pond is stagnant and he doesn’t know about the quality.

“We would love to have clean water in the village”, says Assia, a 33-year-old woman with Bouh, her seven-month-old smiling baby, in her lap, and eight more children swarming around.

Her daughter Khadijelou is three, has orange tinted hair and very thin arms – clear indications of malnutrition.

Providing food

In Assia’s village, families with the most desperate needs are selected and we provide them with food,  seeds, tools and food for their livestock in order to strengthen their resilience to this crisis.

Assia puts her fingerprint as a signature to say she has received help and she immediately goes to the store to get rice, oil, onions and condiments.

“I try my best to make sure my children eat twice a day and sometimes three. Save the Children has helped us and our children a lot. They have also sent a team to weigh and measure the children and they have told us about nutrition and the importance of education,” Assia says.

In this kind of emergency, when parents move around searching for food, it’s essential to raise awareness about the need to protect children. It’s also important to tell them about the need to continue with education.

Because, despite the emergency, life goes on and children’s rights can’t be forgotten.

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