The World Food Programme executive director says a lack of funds is hampering efforts to provide urgent support to Mauritanians and refugees fleeing instability in Mali.

Ertharin Cousin told The Associated Press Wednesday during a 3-day trip to Mauritania, which has been hit by erratic rains and encroaching desertification, that there is a funding shortage of $11 million.

She called on the international community for support, saying the food assistance program has only half the money needed to continue food distribution for the next six months.

Cousin said 14 percent of children under the age of five are suffering from malnutrition in Mauritania.

The program aims to provide assistance to just over 540,000 people, including about 50,000 who have fled violence in Mali.