Nouakchott - At least one in five people face food insecurity in the west African desert country of Mauritania because of poor harvests and high prices, the World Food Programme said on Monday.
More than 650 000 people in the country of 3.5 million live in conditions similar to those of December 2008 at the height of the world food crisis, the UN agency said, releasing the results of a study.
The post-harvest study was conducted in December and January in the impoverished Sahel country about the size of Egypt that is some two-thirds desert.
Mauritania suffers chronic food insecurity because its agricultural sector is "structurally deficient", normally capable of satisfying only around 30% of the population's food demand, the study said.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has identified Mauritania as one of nine African countries that will be threatened with famine and malnutrition this year along with Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.