Bridging the Arab Maghreb and the Sahel region, Mauritania is one of the poorest countries in the world.
For several years, particularly in 2020 and 2021, rainfall deficits have caused a significant drop in agricultural and pastoral resources.
EU humanitarian aid continues to support the most vulnerable through food, health, nutrition, protection and education in emergency assistance.
What are the needs?
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. Therefore, poor rainfall can have a devastating impact on food availability and income opportunities.
Results from the Cadre Harmonisé (November 2022) show that almost 695,000 people (15% of the country’s total population) will face acute food insecurity. This will happen during the forthcoming 2023 lean season, the in-between harvests season when food reserves run low.
This year, more than 44,000 children under 5 years old are expected to face acute malnutrition. The zones most affected by malnutrition are also those most at risk of acute food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic has also added a burden on the country’s health system.
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, the influx of refugees keeps increasing and 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.
How are we helping?
In 2023, the EU has allocated €6.5 million to humanitarian aid in the country. Since 2007, we have supported humanitarian projects in the country with €145 million.
Last year, we mobilised €10 million in humanitarian assistance to Mauritania. This included an indicative amount of €1.5 million from the European Development Fund to address the food crisis following Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
For various reasons, the relevance of maintaining a full presence in the country has now become questionable. Therefore, we seek to focus where EU emergency funding can still have added value, while articulating an appropriate progressive exit strategy.
EU humanitarian 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 children.
Our funding supports the prevention of malnutrition among children. This food assistance is distributed during the period between harvests, where food reserves are severely depleted.
The poorest families with children under 5 and pregnant and breastfeeding women receive priority assistance. EU assistance acts as a safety net, keeping families away from negative mechanisms such as selling their belongings to buy food.
We are also providing support to Mauritania’s healthcare system to address malnutrition among children under 5. Significant funding goes to malnutrition screening and providing medicine and therapeutic food 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. At the M’bera camp, our assistance focuses on food, education for children who missed their schooling, and disaster preparedness.
The European Commission is providing €100 million in humanitarian assistance supporting the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns in Africa. At least €10 million of this funding will be supporting vaccination campaigns for the most vulnerable in West and Central Africa.
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 measures on disaster risk reduction. These actions help communities to better cope with changing weather patterns.
We fund, for example, early warning systems and the reinforcement of local capacities. The aim is to prepare for and respond to multiple natural hazards that affect food availability.
The assistance reinforces the Government’s capacity to provide much-needed cash assistance to vulnerable households affected by shocks.
Last updated: 06/02/2023
Facts & figures
More than half of the population live in poverty or just above the poverty threshold, with no access to health or education (UNDP).
Around 695,000 suffer from severe food shortages and require humanitarian assistance (November 2022 Cadre Harmonisé).
Over 44,000 children at risk of severe, acute malnutrition (UNICEF, 2021).
Hosting over 90,000 refugees from Mali (UNHCR, 31 August 2022).
EU humanitarian aid funding:
€6.5 million in 2023
€145 million since 2007