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By World Food Program (WFP)
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BANJUL, Gambia, March 29, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Gambia announced today it will provide immediate food assistance to 62,500 people in the areas most affected by the recent drought.

The WFP response comes following the Government's declaration of crop failure earlier this month and its appeal for assistance from the humanitarian community. The response will last for two months, starting 1 April, and will cover five rural districts.

“We need to intervene immediately to avoid a further deterioration in the nutrition status of the most vulnerable, especially women and children. We will provide rice and peas as well as fortified foods that contain important nutrients, such as oil with vitamins A & D, fortified cereal and iodized salt,” said WFP Gambia Country Director Vitoria Ginja.

Due to late, erratic rains in 2011, farmers suffered a drop in crop production, leaving poor farming households with no more than three months of food to carry them through until the next harvest.

Many households and communities have resorted to getting by with just one meal a day, selling off their livestock and eating seeds and grain originally set aside for planting.

WFP will work in coordination with the Government, partners and local committees. The immediate relief operations will cost US$1.3 million. Donations are needed urgently to provide follow-up support, focusing on livelihoods recovery and the prevention and treatment of malnutrition.