ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tens of thousands of drought victims in the West African country of Mauritania will receive emergency assistance to rehabilitate wells, prevent outbreaks of disease and provide short-term income, Counterpart International announced. www.Counterpart.org
Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (www.USAID.gov), the $524,000 of assistance will be a lifeline for villages struggling against the effects of the worst drought in 15 years. Counterpart has been working with communities to reduce the suffering caused by the weather and eventually make them self-sufficient.
"Despite herculean efforts by villagers, donors and aid organizations, this continues to be one of the hardest-hit parts of Mauritania," says Tim Ogborn, Counterpart's Senior Vice President for Programs. "Thanks to the generosity of the U.S. people, we can take crucial steps in preserving the gains we have made there in recent years in fighting food insecurity and child malnutrition."
Three-quarters of the USAID assistance will go toward reducing the spread of water-borne disease among 29,000 residents of the Assaba and Hodh el-Gharbi regions – where daytime temperatures can climb above 100 degrees. The heat and drought are forcing residents to use contaminated sources of water.
The deeper wells will play a vital role by providing clean water and reducing disease in these villages. Community health workers and water management committees will receive training in water treatment measures, while communities work to improve their sanitation and hygiene practices.
USAID's assistance will employ 12,300 residents in community-improvement projects – such as digging and fencing off refuse dump sites, improving agricultural drainage and protecting community water sources – that will allow them to buy food they could not otherwise afford. Meanwhile, subsistence farmers – whose harvest last year averaged 40 to 60 percent below normal – will have access to funds so they can feed their families until the next harvest.
"Counterpart always engages and involves the community in the development and implementation of its projects," Ogborn says. "This ensures that the activities align with a community's needs and that the benefits will continue long after the project has ended."
In addition to the community, the global nonprofit is coordinating the new assistance with other nonprofit organizations, including UNICEF, the U.N. World Food Program and Doctors Without Borders.
Counterpart's work in southern Mauritania started in late 2006 and encompasses health and nutrition, community economic development and agricultural improvements. The efforts are supported by USAID.
A network of 500 community health volunteers trained and equipped by Counterpart has provided primary care at the village level and tracked the growth of 16,600 children younger than 5, which has helped to improve their nutrition.
Counterpart has supported such projects as grain mills for women's cooperatives, and its microfinance efforts have resulted in more than 900 loans. It also has helped 160 communities build market gardens, cooperative fields, water troughs and other agricultural projects to increase food security.
About USAID Since 1961, the United States Agency for International Development has been the principal U.S. agency to extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty and engaging in democratic reforms. The agency carries out U.S. foreign policy by promoting broad-scale human progress at the same time it expands stable, free societies, creates markets and trade partners for the United States, and fosters goodwill abroad. www.USAID.gov
About Counterpart Counterpart International is a global development organization that works in partnership to empower people, communities and institutions to drive and sustain their own development. For nearly 50 years, Counterpart has been working in partnership with communities in need to address complex problems related to economic development, nutrition and health, humanitarian assistance and strengthening civil society.