-NOUAKCHOTT/JOHANNESBURG, 12 June 2012 (IRIN) - Temperatures beyond 40 degrees Celsius seem to have seared the carcasses of skinny cows, goats and even a horse that mark the sandy and almost lifeless landscape in southeastern and eastern Mauritania. Most people here are pastoralists and feel the death of their animals not only as a financial loss but almost as the loss of family members. Livestock farming is also the second biggest export earner so the loss extends to the national purse.
Some pastoralists say they were taken by surprise by the ferocity of the drought that gripped their already food insecure country during July and into October in 2011. Local officials say the event was cyclical - "the last severe event we had was in 2003". When rains are normal, people only resort to dipping into their cereal reserves from June/July in the following year, but in mid-2012 people have already been without food for more than three months.