At the invitation of the Ministry of Economy and Industry, which hosts the SUN Focal Point, the coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition or SUN Movement recently made a visit to Mauritania. The aim of the visit, which took place from 3 to 4 March, was to revive efforts to treat and prevent existing malnutrition by attacking the different underlying causes through coordinated sectoral efforts.
Mauritania regularly suffers a deterioration in its nutritional situation during the hunger gap, when increased cases of acute malnutrition are noted that are estimated to affect around 11% of the population. Of these, 1.8% are severe cases, and therefore very close to the emergency threshold of 2% set out in WHO guidelines. Efforts to address this situation are clearly essential but they must not, however, obscure the need for a more structural response to the problem. In fact, after an encouraging decline of more than 40% from 2001 to 2009, chronic malnutrition has remained stable at 20% among children under the age of five for the last 10 years. Such a rate could irreversibly delay the population’s cognitive development, jeopardising the country’s hopes for its future generations’ sustainable development.
The visit was an opportunity to capitalise on recent political awareness of the role of nutrition in developing the country’s human capital. “*The President of the Republic and the Prime Minister are demonstrating great leadership with regard to nutrition. They do not see nutrition as an emergency problem but as an investment in people and children, in the resilience that will make the country prosperous and innovative and enable it to play a role in the region,” *noted the SUN Movement Coordinator at the end of her visit, as she congratulated the President on his Priority Programme focused on promoting greater social inclusion.
The President of the Republic, His Excellency Mr Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, and the Prime Minister, Mr Ismail Bedde Cheigh Sidiya, are in fact committed to signing a decree that will enable progress in the National Nutrition Development Council in order to bring about enhanced cooperation on nutrition among all sectors concerned. They have also demonstrated their common desire to make concrete and ambitious commitments on nutrition with a view to the Nutrition for Growth Summit, planned for December 2020.
Finally, the visit helped to improve coordination between civil society, religious leaders and student groups active in nutrition and the technical and financial partners, the real pillars in the work of combating malnutrition at national and decentralized levels, and in addition enabled a discussion on the pivotal role of political decision-makers at regional level. The donors were also consulted during the visit to ensure their support for a better coordination of efforts to prevent malnutrition. All the ingredients are thus in place to be able to consolidate efforts and foster a new energy, breaking down the barriers between sectors so that nutrition can become a shared concern, in the interests of children and adults, for a prosperous and peaceful Mauritanian society.