Despite strong economic growth in recent years following 50 years of political instability, Mauritania still has high levels of food insecurity, particularly in the eastern and southern regions. Owing to its food deficit, the country must import 70 percent of its food and price fluctuations have an heavy impact on families struggling with chronic poverty.
Over the past 15 years, Mauritania has made slow progress in reducing the prevalence of issues such as undernourishment, child stunting and child mortality. Environmental degradation and the adverse effects of climate change affect rural productivity and food security, which continues to fluctuate according to the season. According to the last available data, collected in June 2015, 26,8 percent of the population are food insecure during the lean season, which can last five or six months in areas where the rains are unpredictable.
In some areas of the country – three quarters of which are desert or semi-desert – people live on less than US$1.25 a day. Vulnerable groups such as women, the elderly, youth and people with disabilities are the most affected by poverty. A weak pre- and post-natal care system and low school retention and educational attainment rates compound the situation, while an influx of refugees from Mali places further strain on scarce resources. At the request of the UNHCR, WFP currently assists 47,000 Malian refugees.
WFP’s work in Mauritania aims to break the intergenerational cycle of hunger and poverty that affects the most vulnerable parts of the country. By addressing the urgent food needs of those who need most support, WFP is working to help vulnerable populations to reinforce their livelihoods and means of subsistence. At the same time, WFP works to build longer-term resilience, better equipping Mauritania to cope with the effects of climate change and other factors affecting food security.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Mauritania
Food assistanceWorking in six of Mauritania’s most vulnerable regions, WFP provides unconditional food assistance to people whose food and nutrition security has been affected by successive climate shocks. WFP provides food distribution or cash-based transfers to vulnerable Mauritanian households and to refugees living in Mberra camp.
Resilience buildingAcross all its activities in Mauritania, WFP supports the country in building its own resilience to the adverse effects of climate change. This means using food-for-asset activities to support sustainable livelihood projects – such as rehabilitating land for agriculture – which in 2016 benefited over 54,000 people. WFP also works with the government to manage an early warning system to improve emergency preparedness and response.
NutritionWFP helps to treat and prevent malnutrition, with activities including supplementary feeding for young children and for pregnant and nursing mothers. WFP also supports training activities to educate health assistants on how to support pregnant women and mothers in areas such as micronutrient-rich foods and good breastfeeding practices.
School mealsIn partnership with the Mauritanian government, WFP aims to distribute two meals a day to primary school children in rural areas where school attendance and retention rates are low and food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty are high. With the exception of school meals in the Mberra refugee camp, this programme has been challenged by lack of funding.
Climate change adaptationWith the Ministry of Environment and Durable Development, WFP is working to improve the resilience of Mauritanian communities to the adverse effects of climate change. This means better understanding risks and their impact on resources and food security, as well as carrying out mitigating activities such as developing pastoral protection areas to combat land degradation.