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

In February, the United Nations called on the international community to help prevent an impending hunger crisis in the Sahel region of Africa. In a departure from the usual one-year plans implemented in the past, the U.N. devised a three-year plan to address and ideally break the constant food crisis in the Sahel. Now in July, the UN is pleading with the international community to uphold its aid commitment to the region under this plan as funding falls drastically short of the intended target.

The Sahel region is composed of a belt of countries just South of the Sahara desert including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. The region is frequently cited as one of the poorest and most vulnerable regions in the world; food insecurity seems to be a norm rather than the exception. In 2011 and 2012 the region experienced one of the most dangerous food crises yet, although severe repercussions were avoided due to a rallying effort by the international community to provide emergency aid to those most at-risk.

The U.N. is now expecting a potentially similar hunger crisis due to the population’s inability to deal with climate shocks as well as recent conflict and instability within the region and in neighboring countries. The three-year Sahel Humanitarian Response Plan drafted in February requires $2.2 billion to assist 20.2 million food insecure people in the region. For more pressing purposes, the U.N. asked for an immediate donation of $116 million of the $2.2 billion in order to begin assisting the 7.5 million in most desperate need.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, only $16 million of the requested $116 million has been donated to date. Due to this $100 million gap in funding the U.N. has had to tap into its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in order to address the hunger crisis. The U.N. Humanitarian Chief allocated $30.5 million of $75 million intended to boost emergency relief operations in Africa to seven countries of the Sahel region; countries on the Horn of Africa will receive the other $44.5 million. However, that still leaves emergency operations in the Sahel $69.5 million short.

In wake of the U.N.’s three-year response plan, USAID announced, as part of the international effort, the Resilience in the Sahel-Enhanced (RISE) initiative, which aims to build resilience to the unforgiving climate patterns in the region as part of a long-term effort to improve food security. According to USAID,$130 million was committed to the initiative for the first two years, which amounts to $65 million a year, only $3.5 million less than the $69.5 million still required for current emergency operations of the U.N. Sahel Humanitarian Response Plan.

– Erin Sullivan

Sources: All Africa, UNOCHA 1, UNOCHA 2, UNOCHA 3, FAO, USAID 1, USAID 2, UN 1, UN 2, UN 3, The Guardian, World Bank, USAID
The Guardian