Mauritania, a predominately desert nation of four million people, faces chronic poverty and hunger. The World Bank reports that nearly a third of Mauritanians live under the national poverty line. In addition, acute malnutrition affects approximately 15 percent of children younger than 5 years of age, according to the 2017 Global Hunger Index.
Many Mauritanians depend on subsistence agriculture and pastoralism as their primary livelihoods. However, these activities are vulnerable to environmental shocks. Insufficient and irregular rainfall during the June–September rainy season has significantly disrupted crop and livestock production in southern Mauritania, and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) projects that many poor households will face Stressed (IPC 2) levels of food insecurity until January 2018;* food security conditions will likely deteriorate in early 2018, with some MAURITANIA Updated November 30, 2017 impoverished households experiencing Crisis (IPC 3) acute food insecurity through May 2018. Furthermore, some very poor families may face Emergency (IPC 4) levels of acute food insecurity during this period.
The 2012 coup d’état and civil unrest in neighboring Mali displaced thousands of people, many of whom fled to Mauritania. As of October, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that Mauritania hosted 51,800 Malian refugees, who largely rely on food assistance to meet their basic needs.
The Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) is a standardized tool that aims to classify the severity and magnitude of food insecurity. The IPC scale, which is comparable across countries, ranges from Minimal (IPC 1) to Famine (IPC 5).
The USAID Office of Food for Peace (FFP) works with implementing partners to assist vulnerable, food-insecure Mauritanians and Malian refugees through both in-kind and market-based emergency food assistance. With this flexible approach, FFP is able to use the most efficient, appropriate tools to maximize program impact and reduce costs.
FFP supports activities that both strengthen Mauritania’s food security and reduce its vulnerability to future shocks. These include partnering with non-governmental organizations to provide food vouchers and cash-for-work (CFW) opportunities, bolstering both household food consumption and local economies. Through CFW, FFP improves productive community infrastructure to increase access to water, diversify livelihoods and enhance food security. In addition, FFP’s partners conduct activities that complement food assistance, such as nutrition screenings and trainings on gardening strategies.
In collaboration with the UN World Food Program (WFP), FFP furnishes in-kind rations and cash transfers for food to Malian refugees residing in Mauritania. FFP also enables the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to distribute ready-to-use therapeutic food to children younger than 5 years of age suffering from severe acute malnutrition.