Solidarity and support in the shadow of acute malnutrition in Mauritania

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By Irene Peiro, Spanish Red Cross

Tibiba, a woman living in the Mberdya village, in Gorgol, southern Mauritania, works as volunteer in a health centre focused on malnutrition, run by the French Red Cross and the Mauritanian Red Crescent.

The center was established two years ago on land given freely by the local community. To function, the centre needed just three volunteers, but 15 women from the village came when the request for help went out.

Tibiba was fortunate to be among the volunteers selected. Currently, she is responsible for managing and preparing food kits, provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) to be distributed to mothers whose children suffer from malnutrition. One day a week, she participates in the management of malnourished local children. She spends another day travelling to other villages to do the same.

When asked why so many women wanted to volunteer, she said that the people of this village have a strong sense of solidarity, and virtually all families in the village have a child who is benefiting from the activities offered by the centre.

This year, solidarity is still paramount. The lack of rain has affected the main livelihood of the villagers: farming crops and livestock. Many residents of Mberdya have left to find work in town. They do not just send money to their own families, but also to other villagers who are in need. But how long will this last?

Nathalie Bonvin, regional food security, nutrition and livelihoods delegate in International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Socieites’ (IFRC) Dakar Office, said it was vital to improve nutrition activities in the region. “Combined with food security mitigation activities, we will avoid an increase in malnutrition rates in children, and save lives,” she said.

The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal to support the Mauritanian Red Crescent in continuing its healthcare work to screen for malnutrition and provide help to those in need.