Bridging the Arab Maghreb and the Sahel region, Mauritania is one of the world’s poorest countries. For the fifth year in a row, lack of rainfall and scarce vegetation have had a negative impact on pastoral areas in the south.
With more than half of Mauritania’s population depending on agriculture and livestock herding for food and income, poor rainfall can have a devastating impact on communities’ food availability and livelihood. Following a drought, Mauritania was hit by a food crisis in 2018, at a time when vulnerable people were still recovering from previous crises. Southern Mauritania is particularly prone to dry weather and irregular rainfall patterns.
In 2020, more than 609,000 people are at risk of food shortages and require humanitarian assistance in Mauritania, especially because of droughts. This figure is equivalent to around 15% of the population. Severe acute malnutrition among children continues to be a major humanitarian concern.
Mauritania also hosts the second largest camp for refugees from Mali who, since 2012, have fled to Mauritania for safety.
The first coronavirus case in the country was registered in March 2020. The pandemic is a challenge to Mauritania’s health and monitoring system, especially as concerns early detection and containment.
Since 2007, the European Union has been supporting humanitarian projects in Mauritania with a total amount of €118.5 million. The €9 million allocated for humanitarian assistance in Mauritania in 2020 is addressing the food crisis in the country and providing refugees the assistance they need.
In the current pandemic context, part of the funding (€700,000) has been directed towards the implementation of 2 epidemic response projects, in line with the country’s national response plan. These projects include awareness-raising activities for communities, the purchase of equipment protection, the training of health staff and the provision of support to national authorities in the management of the pandemic at the borders. In addition, ongoing EU-funded projects have been readjusted in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
EU funds support the prevention of malnutrition among children through food assistance distributed during the period between harvests, where food reserves are severely depleted. Priority is given to the poorest families with children under 5 years of age and/or pregnant and breastfeeding women to prevent their situation from worsening. The presence of EU assistance acts as a safety net for families to keep them from resorting to negative short-term coping strategies, such as the selling off their remaining means of subsistence to buy food.
Another priority of EU assistance in Mauritania is providing support to the national healthcare system to address malnutrition among children under 5 years of age. Significant funding goes to the screening of malnutrition, and the provision of medicine and therapeutic food used to treat severely malnourished children whose lives are at risk. In 2019, over 21,700 children under 5 years of age were treated in Mauritania thanks to EU support.
EU-funded projects also help vulnerable refugees in Mauritania, who have no other means of survival were it not for humanitarian assistance. Assistance to Malian refugees at M’bera camp focuses on food aid, water and hygiene, protection, and providing education to children who missed their schooling due to humanitarian crises.
Part of the EU’s humanitarian funding in Mauritania also supports the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), which allows humanitarian workers and supplies to reach people in need of assistance in remote locations.
Given the recurrence of crises in Mauritania, especially drought-related ones, the EU also supports disaster risk reduction measures. These measures help communities to better cope with changing weather patterns through, for instance, the development of early warning systems and the reinforcement of local capacities to prepare for and respond to multiple natural hazards that affect the availability of food.