Bridging the Arab Maghreb and the Sahel region, Mauritania is one of the world’s poorest countries. For the fifth year in a row, the lack of sufficient rainfall, and scarce vegetation has affected pastoral areas in the south. In 2018, some areas experienced a harsh spell of drought. This year it is estimated that around 2.3 million people are at risk of food shortages, with over 31 500 children suffering from the most severe form of malnutrition. On top of this, there are 58 000 Malian refugees in Mauritania who depend on humanitarian food assistance.
Mauritania experienced a nutrition and food crisis in 2018, a time when vulnerable people were still struggling to recover from previous crises. The situation of farmers remains worrying, given the uneven distribution of resources and poor rainfall in some areas.
According to 2019 projections, Mauritania is the country in the Sahel region with the highest percentage of its population in need of emergency food assistance. An estimated 2.3 million people are at risk of food shortages and require humanitarian assistance. This is equivalent to over half of the Mauritanian population. Almost half of the districts in the country (23 out of 55) are in an emergency nutrition situation.
Severe acute malnutrition among children continues to be a humanitarian concern in 2019, with an estimated 31 700 children requiring treatment for it.
Mauritania also hosts the second largest camp for refugees from Mali: more than 58 000 Malian refugees have fled to Mauritania for their safety since 2012. Spontaneous returns are few, mostly due to the pervasive insecurity situation and the extremely poor access to basic services that awaits them in Mali. In March 2019 alone, more than a thousand new arrivals were registered at Mbera camp and more than 2 000 since the beginning of 2019. Refugees require food assistance and healthcare services.
Since 2007, the European Union has continuously stepped up its support for humanitarian programmes in Mauritania, with the total amount of humanitarian aid allocated standing at €104.85 million. In 2019, €11.15 million in humanitarian assistance will address the food and nutrition crisis in the country, and ensure refugees get the assistance they need.
EU funds support the prevention of malnutrition with food assistance in the most critical months in-between harvests, where food reserves are severely depleted. Priority is given to the poorest families with children under-five years of age and/or pregnant and breastfeeding women to prevent their situation from worsening. EU assistance means that families avoid resorting to negative short-term coping strategies, such as selling off their remaining means of subsistence to buy food. In addition, the EU supports also provides for healthcare, and water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH).
EU humanitarian assistance funds nutritional programmes that carried out by its humanitarian partners on the ground. The assistance also supports the healthcare system, in particular in addressing malnutrition among children under five years of age. Significant funding goes to the provision of medicine and therapeutic food used to treat severely malnourished children whose lives are at risk. In 2018, close to 21 000 children under five in Mauritania were treated thanks to EU support.
EU assistance helps humanitarian organisations in providing goods and services essential for the survival of conflict-affected and displaced people. Assistance to Malian refugees at Mbera camp focuses on food aid, water and sanitation, protection, and providing education to children who missed their schooling due to humanitarian crises.
Part of the EU’s funding also supports the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), which allows humanitarian workers and cargo to reach people in need of assistance in remote locations.
The EU also gives importance to disaster risk reduction measures. These include the development of early warning systems and the reinforcement of local capacities to prepare for and respond to multiple natural hazards.