Bridging the Arab Maghreb and the Sahel region, Mauritania is sparsely populated and is one of the world’s poorest countries, with some 52.4% of its population near or living in poverty. The most vulnerable populations continue to suffer from the cumulative impact of recurrent shocks which have eroded their livelihood and resilience. Over 900 000 people are food insecure and malnutrition affects over 153 000 children under five years of age. In addition, Mauritania hosts 52 000 Malian refugees due to conflict.
Like other Sahel countries, Mauritania was affected by the 2012-2013 food and nutrition crisis and the most vulnerable populations whose livelihoods were eroded have not fully recovered. More than 900 000 people are currently food insecure, of which 281 000 face severe food insecurity (Cadre Harmonisé June 2017). High food prices affect the poorest households, who rely on local markets to get food.
Regarding the nutrition situation, 21% of children under five are stunted - too short for their age, a sign of malnutrition - and in 2017, it is estimated that over 153 000 children under five years old (14% of the children) will suffer acute malnutrition. The national health system has very limited capacities to respond.
In addition, Mauritania hosts the second largest camp of refugees from Mali, with 52 000 persons who fled conflict in the North from 2012 onwards. Spontaneous returns to their country of origin are few and far between, 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 reach Mauritania regularly.
The European Commission has stepped up the support to humanitarian programmes in Mauritania since 2006. In 2017, humanitarian funding to the country stands at €11.8 million.
EU funds support the prevention of malnutrition of the poorest families with children under-five years old and/or pregnant and lactating women to prevent deterioration of their nutritional status and prevent them from resorting to sell their remaining assets in order to buy food.
EU humanitarian assistance also funds nutrition programmes carried out by its humanitarian partners on the ground, supporting the health system and in particular the treatment of undernutrition among children younger than five years of age.
Assistance to Malian refugees in Mbera camp focuses on food assistance, water and sanitation. Education in emergencies and protection are also a part of the supported activities. Particular attention is also 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 to reach remote locations and increase access to those in need of assistance.
In addition, European humanitarian funding is supporting Disaster Risk Reduction, by developing early warning systems and reinforcing the local capacities to prepare for and respond to multiple risks.