Mauritania is an impoverished country located on the west coast of Sub-Saharan Africa in the Sahel region. Of its 4.1 million people, 42 percent live below the poverty line. The population faces additional challenges of high youth unemployment rates and low levels of formal education. However, a huge decline in the poverty rate during the 2010s and successful projects in humanitarian aid to Mauritania place the country in a position to grow economically.
Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960 but has since seen two coups creating some political instability. The first occurred in 1978 and the second 30 years later in 2008. The second coup coincided with a time of poverty reduction, and the 2000s, in general, brought GDP growth for Mauritania. The mining industry is large in Mauritania and was a big factor in that growth due to an increased global value of minerals.
Humanitarian aid to Mauritania can help further boost the growth of the country and benefit the people. Below are four areas in which humanitarian aid has been a success.
- Finance – The World Bank has been involved with humanitarian aid projects in Mauritania since 1963 and is working on financial projects that benefit the people. There are currently eight projects that total over $370 million in aid to Mauritania. The projects align with the goal of creating jobs, as well as provide analytical work and technical assistance. Also, in 2012 the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested $12 million in commercial banks to provide a $127 million two-year credit line so that Mauritania would have a stable source of energy products.
- Education – The World Bank is also involved in two educational projects in Mauritania. Mauritania’s population suffers from a lack of formal education and a 44% youth unemployment rate. These World Bank projects (totaling over $30 million) educate the population and increase the relevance and efficiency of vocational training in Mauritania. The projects are also working with training institutions to modernize them and improve their programs. Seven of these institutions already have performance contracts and three will be internationally certified to best prepare the workforce.
- Climate – Located in the Sahel region in Africa, Mauritania has a semi-arid climate. Additionally, as a coastal country, Mauritania faces challenges from sea level rise and erosion. Up to 30 meters of coastline is lost in any given year. To combat this, Mauritania is working with other countries, regional alliances and international partners. Mauritania is developing an investment plan based on environmental analysis that will be part of a foundation for its future sustainable development. Also, Britain’s Oxfam is working to help the population affected by recurrent climate crises.
- Food – A large portion of humanitarian aid to Mauritania focuses on food security and nutrition. The European Commission is working to prevent malnutrition of those most vulnerable in the population. Additionally, USAID is working with Action Contre la Faim (ACF or Action Against Hunger in English) to prevent malnutrition through cooking demonstrations and nutrition education. Further, they conduct screenings to identify children most at risk of malnutrition so they can be treated. They have contributed over $200 million to ensure food availability in Mauritania.
Despite the improvements in Mauritania in the 2000s, there are still many people living in poverty and the country faces development challenges. Humanitarian aid to Mauritania has been essential to helping the people of the country and will continue to help grow the economy.
– Hayley Herzog