Bridging the Arab Maghreb and the Sahel region, Mauritania is one of the world’s poorest countries. With a severe food and nutrition crisis, 2018 is a particularly difficult year for the Sahel region and Mauritania. Figures show a 92 percent increase in the number of people that require emergency food assistance compared to the 2017 lean season. Overall, 830 000 people are in need of assistance, including 119 000 children aged under five. In addition, Mauritania hosts 57 000 Malian refugees.
Mauritania’s most vulnerable populations struggle to cope with the ongoing food crisis in the Sahel, triggered by erratic rains, high food prices, conflict and insecurity. The country was deeply affected by the 2012-2013 food and nutrition crisis and had not fully recovered before being hit again in 2018. As of August 2018, 538 000 people were acutely food insecure, meaning they are unable to access or afford food. This figure is almost twice as much as in 2017, when 281 000 people were food insecure.
The price of certain types of food remains well above the seasonal average due to poor harvests last year, high demand, and transportation costs.
Severe acute malnutrition is on the rise and 70 percent higher than the average of the last 5 years. By late August 2018, 16 800 children under five years old suffering from this life-threatening malnutrition had been admitted for care in the country and 23 out of 55 districts are in nutrition emergency situation. The national health system has very limited capacities to respond.
Mauritania also hosts the second largest camp for refugees from Mali: over 57 000 people fled the conflict from 2012 onwards. Spontaneous returns are few, mostly due to the prevailing security situation and the extremely poor access to basic services that awaits them. Food assistance and health services for refugees are still critical to maintain an appropriate level of assistance.
Since 2006, the European Commission has been continuously stepping up its support for humanitarian programmes in Mauritania. In 2018, humanitarian funding to the sum of €16.4 million have been committed to the country to address the food and nutrition crisis, and to ensure assistance to refugees.
Food assistance will respond to the drastic loss of crops and livestock and the needs of food insecure populations; over 83 000 people benefit from this type of assistance. EU funds also support the prevention of malnutrition of the poorest families with children under-five years old and/or pregnant and lactating women to avoid a deterioration of their nutritional status and prevent them from resorting to sell their remaining means of subsistence 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 under five years of age. The EU provides significant funds to pay for the medicines and therapeutic food used to cure severely undernourished children whose lives are at risk. By late August 2018, 16 800 children under five years old have been treated thanks to EU support.
Assistance to Malian refugees in Mbera camp focuses on food assistance, water and sanitation. Education in emergencies and protection, which includes material assistance, such as food, water, medical assistance, and psychological support, are also part of the support provided. 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 natural hazards.