living conditions in mauritania
The country of Mauritania is located in West Africa. It encompasses a land area of 1,030,700 square kilometers and has a population of more than 4,600,000. This makes it the 11th largest African country in terms of land area and 40th in terms of population. Despite its vast size, Mauritania is experiencing a devastating food and nutrition crisis, along with a horrific drought, that is making hunger in Mauritania more acute than it has been in years. The following is a list of the top 10 facts about hunger in Mauritania.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Mauritania

  1. Hunger is a serious problem: According to the 2018 GHI, Mauritania ranks 88th out of 119 qualifying nations in regard to the number of malnourished citizens within its borders. It has a score of 27.3 on the GHI Severity Scale. Thus, Mauritania is in the category of other countries, like Bangladesh and Burkina Faso, with serious levels of hunger.
  2. Drought cycles: Mauritania is located in the region of Africa south of the Sahara called the Sahel. This region consists of semi-arid grassland and has provided the continent with cash crops like cotton and millet. However, the Sahel receives extremely inconsistent rainfall and has suffered cycles of drought for thousands of years. The drought the Sahel currently endures has occurred since the 70’s. Because this drought is a regional problem, the lives of millions in countries outside Mauritania – like Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal – are struggling through this drought as well.
  3. Managing drought: In a national report for Integrated Drought Management, Sidi Bobba, Director of Operations and Weather Forecasting and Sid El Kheir Ould Taleb Ekhyar, General Manager of M’Pourié Farm, say that Mauritanian authorities are employing strategies to minimize the impact of Mauritania’s current drought. Some of these strategies include encouraging Mauritanians to diversify their crops and use organic manure. Other strategies are using crops that are resistant to drought and focusing on farming techniques that promote the economy of the soil water.
  4. Reliance on imports: While fish, iron, natural gas, oil, copper, wild animals and gold are all natural resources that Mauritania has in abundance, many Mauritanians specialize in farming and pastoralism. Unfortunately, these sources of income are vulnerable to environmental shock. And because 80 percent of Mauritania’s land is desert that cannot be used for agriculture, this lack of arable land, combined with drought, has made Mauritania into a nation that depends on foreign imports to feed its citizens. In a good agricultural year, 70 percent of Mauritania’s food supply is imported, but in a bad agricultural year, 85 percent is imported.
  5. Cases of acute malnutrition: In January, UNICEF reported that 130,000 children, including 32,000 children with severe acute malnutrition, would require nutritional care and treatment this year. UNICEF also reported in a Humanitarian Situation Report that 24,521 children with severe acute malnutrition (11,770 girls and 12,751 boys) were admitted for treatment throughout Mauritania. This is 76 percent of the estimated 32,244 cases of severe acute malnutrition for 2018.
  6. Pregnant women and malnutrition: UNICEF also reported that 31,000 pregnant and lactating women would require nutritional care and treatment this year. The same report that reveals the number of Mauritanian children treated for severe acute malnutrition also reveals that 32,876 pregnant and lactating women have been offered aid at community health facilities. And 4,373 pregnant and lactating women were treated for acute malnutrition.
  7. Extreme poverty: Mauritania is one of the poorest nations in the world, with a GDP per capita of $4,500. As one of the poorest countries in the world, around 25 percent of Mauritanians live on less than $1.25 per day. This extreme poverty hinders many Mauritanians from accessing health and education services.
  8. Water production: Even though Mauritania is now working towards a solution to its water shortage, the African Development Bank Group reports that Mauritania has been able to meet only half of its estimated daily drinking water requirement of 100,000 m³/day for more than a decade. Its production level is only around 55,000 m³/day from the only available aquifer in the southwestern Mauritanian city Trarza.
  9. Malian refugees: Thousands of Malian refugees, escaping the 2012 coup and civil unrest, have entered Mauritania and the ongoing conflict in Mali continues to bring even more. The UN reported that in March there were 58,000 Malian refugees in Mauritania. In addition to needy Mauritanian citizens, these refugees also rely on food assistance. The UN World Food Program (WFP) and USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) give cash-based food assistance to around 55,000 Malians who live in the Mbera refugee camp in southeastern Mauritania.
  10. Malnutrition a key issue: The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has formed a chart that reveals the risk factors that drive the most death and disability combined in Mauritania. This chart ranks malnutrition as the chief risk factor from 2007 to 2017.

When one considers these top 10 facts about hunger in Mauritania, one might not be able to see a bright future for this country arising any time soon. But with the work of organizations around the world who are both providing aid to Mauritania and raising awareness of its food and nutrition crisis, one can hope that one day hunger in Mauritania will no longer be an issue.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr

Malian refugees
Mali is a landlocked country located in western Africa and is one of the major cotton producers on the continent. Though self-sufficient when it comes to food production, Mali depends on aid from other nations and is currently facing a refugee crisis. Ahead are 10 facts about Malian refugees.

  1. The Mali refugee crisis began with a coup in 2012. Violence erupted between the Malian government and several Islamist groups in 2012 due to ideological differences. The rebels were eventually halted by French intervention, but despite France’s efforts, many still fled northern Mali.
  2. More than 100,000 people have left Mali as refugees. As of September 2016, neighboring countries Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger are collectively home to more than 134,000 Malian refugees.
  3. Not all refugees left the country. According to the U.N. refugee agency, 36,690 people have been internally displaced within Mali.
  4. Niger currently hosts the majority of Malian refugees. Niger hosts more than 60,000 Malian refugees, up from just under 53,000 one year ago. Mauritania hosts nearly 42,000 and Burkina Faso is home to approximately 32,000.
  5. The major issues affecting refugees and internally displaced people are access to food, healthcare and clean water. These issues are combated by humanitarian efforts, but attacks on humanitarian convoys and theft of resources have left many Malian refugees without basic necessities.
  6. Malnutrition is a severe concern for Malian children in refugee camps. Doctors Without Borders reported in 2013 that the number of refugee children admitted to clinics for malnutrition in the Mbera refugee camp was on the rise. The organization was concerned that lack of adequate preparation for the volume of refugees was responsible for weakening refugee health.
  7. Malian refugees have lost pieces of their culture to the war. Many Malian refugees are of Tuareg ethnicity. The Tuareg have a longstanding history in northern Mali, where libraries contain volumes dedicated to medicine, mathematics, poetry and philosophy written over centuries. Conflict between the Tuareg rebels and the Malian government has destroyed many of these cultural documents.
  8. The Algiers Accord has brought some stability to Mali. The 2015 peace treaty between Tuareg-led rebels and the Malian government has improved security within the country. Although the signing of this peace treaty has not reduced the number of individuals fleeing the country, the government is hopeful that the peace treaty will be a step in the right direction to better protect the people of Mali.
  9. Organizations such as UNICEF are currently aiding refugees. In 2013, UNICEF and its partners provided substantial aid to Malian refugees including education for 400,000 children, safe water for 1.5 million people, treatment for 170,000 children with malnutrition and rehabilitation for ex-child soldiers and victims of gender-based violence.
  10. Malian refugees are cautious about returning home. For those who have returned to Mali, jobs, food, water, healthcare and personal security are still very unstable. Until these issues are addressed, many Malians will continue to live as refugees in other nations.

Although the turmoil in Mali has resulted in thousands of people fleeing the country, small steps are being initiated to reduce the number of refugees and internally displaced people. Humanitarian organizations are making slow but steady progress to better the lives of Malian refugees.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

malian refugees
If faced with a choice between remaining in the relative safety of a refugee camp but being hungry, or returning to your home country to face violence and uncertainty, which would you choose?

The increasingly severe drought conditions that are affecting several countries in the West African Sahel states has forced many Malian refugees to consider this very question. Lack of food, shelter and other basic resources at refugee camps in nearby Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger have many considering a return to Mali, which continues to be wracked by violence.

Since the violence that pitted the government against rebel groups (mainly the Tuareg) began in Mali in 2012, nearly 146,000 Malians have been displaced both internally and abroad. Thousands fled to nearby Burkina Faso, further stretching the resources of a country that is consistently listed at the bottom of the Human Development Index (183 of 186 in 2013). Burkina Faso, which already faces its own high rates of poverty, has seen its food security become dramatically more uncertain due to both the drought and influx of refugees.

The drought affects seven West African countries (including Mali and Burkina Faso) and is mainly due to poor weather conditions – exacerbated by poor governance. Nearly 15 million people are affected, many of whom rely on good weather for strong harvests that serve as their livelihoods.

Malian refugees who fled during the past two years are making difficult choices between remaining in the safety of camps abroad, where there is no longer enough basic resources for them, or returning to their war-torn homes to try and make a new life. Mali has a population of 16 million, where 50% live below the poverty line and 47.6% fall between the ages of 0 and 14. Considering these statistics and the violence that continues, many needs of the young population that will allow it to grow in the future are not being met.

Both choices that the refugees face leave a strong possibility of falling into poverty and facing difficulty in securing a livelihood. The combination of food insecurity, conflict and displaced populations is and will continue to be a source of concern for countries throughout the world as this mixture is often at the root of instability that spills into further conflict and terrorism.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: VICE, The World Bank, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, Central Intelligence Agency, Google Drive, BBC News
Photo: The Guardian