Bridging the Arab Maghreb and the Sahel region, Mauritania is one of the poorest countries in the world. For the sixth year in a row, lack of rainfall and scarce vegetation have had a negative impact on pastoral areas in the south. EU humanitarian aid continues to support the most vulnerable through food, health, nutrition, and protection assistance.
Southern Mauritania is particularly prone to dry weather and irregular rainfall patterns. More than half of Mauritania’s population depends on agriculture and livestock herding for food and income. Poor rainfall can therefore have a devastating impact on communities’ food availability and livelihood.
Results from the Cadre Harmonisé (March 2021) show that more than 484,000 people (11% of the country’s total population) will face acute food insecurity during the forthcoming lean season, the in-between harvests season when food reserves run low. Children under 5 will face acute malnutrition in 2021.
The country hosts the second largest camp for refugees from Mali who, since 2012, have fled to Mauritania for safety. With ongoing violence and instability in Mali, their prospects for return remain very limited.
Mauritania registered the first coronavirus case in March 2020. The pandemic is a challenge to the country’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 €118.5 million. This funding helps address the food, health, nutrition, and protection needs of the most vulnerable populations. It also focuses on disaster response and increasing access to education for refugee and host community children.
EU funds support the prevention of malnutrition among children through food assistance distributed during the period between harvests, where food reserves are severely depleted. The poorest families with children under the age of 5 and/or pregnant and breastfeeding women receive priority assistance to prevent their situation from worsening. EU assistance acts as a safety net for families to keep them from resorting to negative actions such as selling off their belongings 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.
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, 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). Thanks to this important lifeline, humanitarian workers and supplies can reach people in need of assistance in just 2.5 hours instead of 3 days by road.
Given the recurrence of crises in Mauritania, especially drought-related ones, the EU also supports disaster risk reduction measures. These actions 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. The assistance reinforces the Government’s capacity to provide much-needed cash assistance to vulnerable households affected by shocks.
The European Commission is providing €100 million in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in countries in Africa with critical humanitarian needs and fragile health systems. At least €10 million of this funding will be supporting vaccination campaigns for the most vulnerable in West and Central Africa.