Mauritania: Culture as a Vector in Health Promotion
The EU adopts a multilateral approach in its efforts to assist Mauritania in the sector of health reform. A snapshot of the country’s health status reveals it is characterised by high mortality rates, especially rife among the most vulnerable groups – mothers and children. A high rate of gender-based violence – 66% of girls and women have been victim to female genital mutilation – further darkens the image.
The right and access to health care for all drives the objective of the creation of a universal health coverage system in the entire country. To achieve this the EU, together with the Universal Health Coverage Partnership, is a major contributor to Mauritania’s National Programme for Health Development. The aim is to improve essential health services from promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.
The implementation of these funds in a transparent and inclusive manner will help to improve health care and the socio-economic situation, which the pandemic has made still more fragile.- Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships
The EU works with local and international NGOs in the roll out of its development assistance programmes and projects, the PASS (Programme d’Appui au Secteur de la Santé) programme, funded by the 11th European Development Fund, launched in July 2017, is a good example of this collaboration in Mauritania. Following an audit within the Ministry of Health in 2014, the findings attributed the weak performance of the health system to excessive centralisation, lack of programme coordination, poor efficiency in terms of resource allocation and lack of technical competencies.
PASS: A structural support to the health sector
In order to address these weaknesses, the EU Health Sector Strengthening Program (PASS), has an institutional support component known as “Appui Institutionnel” au Programme d’Appui au Secteur de la Santé” (AI-PASS; i.e., Institutional Support for PASS), implemented by Enabel (the Belgian Development Agency) with a scientific partnership with the Public Health Department of the Antwerpen Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM). The PASS EU Program aims at assisting the Ministry of Health in the implementation of its national development plan and encompasses five domains, namely governance, equitable access to quality healthcare, essential drugs and consumables, human resources management, and setting up a social health insurance scheme.
PASS also has an interesting anthropological dimension with several ITM studies on the relationships between patients and doctors and the place of the community in the health sector.
Mauritania received the first delivery of vaccines on 14 April 2021, 31,200 AstraZeneca doses from France and an additional 69,600 AstraZenaca doses. In total, 300,000 vaccine doses have been allocated to Mauritania through the COVAX initiative. The country entered in a third COVID-19 wave and began an intensification of its national vaccination campaign.
Development projects in any sector (health, agriculture, industry, environment) need the oxygen of communication in order to attain the trust and participation of the beneficiaries. Culture is often used as a vector to embrace the necessary audiences. As the transmission of the virus progressed in the country, music appeared as a privileged medium for disseminating important messages concerning the rules of social distancing as well as the hope for better days. Motivated by efforts to convey a message of self-empowerment and to raise awareness about ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, the EU and the Mauritanian Government invested in the production of a video.
‘Veydak Lekhbar’ (‘Take your destiny in hand’ from the Hassanyan original) a musical video performed by five renowned Mauritanian artists, raises awareness about personal responsibility and underlines the virtue of the different barrier gestures such as handwashing in the fight against COVID-19. This video, in five languages (Hassanya, Wolof, Soninke, Poular and French) is available throughout the country on all traditional and social media outlets.
In the same vein, local musicians, artists, actors and writers have been engaged in a campaign to highlight respect for human rights in Mauritania, in particular the rights of women in the fight against gender-based violence. Launched in November 2019, on the occasion of the ‘International Day against gender-based violence,’ the “Alach ça?” (“Why is that?”) initiative includes songs, concerts, exhibitions, theatre productions, video capsules and publications with common messaging and advice.