Bridging the Arab Maghreb and the Sahel region, Mauritania is sparsely populated and one of the world’s poorest countries: 52.4 % of its population living close to or in poverty. Over 705 000 people need assistance. The most vulnerable populations continue to suffer from the cumulative impact of recurrent shocks which have eroded their livelihood and resilience. Mauritania also hosts 52 000 Malian refugees due to conflict there.
Like other Sahel countries, Mauritania was affected by the 2012-2013 food and nutrition crisis. The most vulnerable population's livelihoods have not fully recovered yet. The number of severely food insecure people is estimated to reach 602 230 in June 2018, which is double than in 2017. Six regions and 21 departments are already in an emergency situation. Severe acute malnutrition is on the rise and is 70% higher than the average of the last 5 years.
The precocity of the lean season is worrying. Around 378 000 people are at crisis level of food insecurity while 2.3% of children under age five are suffering the most severe form of malnutrition, higher than the average rate during the Sahel crisis. Global acute malnutrition has reached 10.9%. In eight out of the country's 13 regions, malnutrition rates have surpassed the 15% emergency threshold.
21% of children under five are stunted - too short for their age, a sign of malnutrition. In 2018, it is estimated that over 118 000 children under 5 years old (more than 18% of children) will suffer moderate or severe acute malnutrition. The national health system has very limited capacities to respond.
In addition, Mauritania hosts the second largest camp for refugees from Mali, with 52 000 people who fled conflict in the north from 2012 onwards. Spontaneous returns to their country of origin are scarce, mostly due to the prevailing security situation and the extremely poor access to basic services that awaits them. Small groups of people seeking refuge still regularly reach Mauritania.
The European Union has stepped up its support to humanitarian programmes in Mauritania since 2006. In 2017, humanitarian funding to the country was €11.8 million, which brings the EU humanitarian support to a total of €76.5 million. The EU humanitarian funding helps the country to slowly recover from one of the world’s biggest food crises.
European Union funds support the prevention of malnutrition of the poorest families with children under five years old and/or pregnant and lactating women. It aims to prevent the deterioration of their nutritional status and prevent them from selling their remaining assets in order to buy food.
EU humanitarian assistance also funds nutrition programmes carried out by its humanitarian partners on the ground. In addition, the EU supports the health system and in particular the treatment of severe acute malnutrition among children under five years of age.
The EU assistance to Malian refugees in Mbera camp focuses on food assistance, water and sanitation. Education in emergencies and protection are also part of the supported activities. Particular attention is given to increasing self-reliance and resilience among refugees and the local communities who host them.
The EU also funds the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service UNHAS, which allows humanitarian workers and cargo reach remote locations and increase access to those in need of assistance.
In addition, European humanitarian funding supports disaster risk reduction, by developing early warning systems and reinforcing the local capacities to prepare for and respond to multiple risks.