Staying a little longer: Malian refugees in Mauritania - UNHCR/WFP Joint Assessment Mission, May 2013
This report presents the findings of the May 2013 UNHCR/WFP Joint Assessment Mission that evaluated food and nutrition security conditions in the camp host communities one year after the outbreak of the crisis. The JAM exercise was intended to allow UNHCR and WFP to improve assistance programs and develop a joint plan of action for 2013 –2014. The JAM relied on a secondary data review, and primary data collection in Mbera camp and in host communities.
Although assistance programs in Mbera have improved — with global acute malnutrition rates dropping from an estimated 20% in early 2012 to 13.1% in January 2013 — the nutrition situation remains serious. Efforts that have made nutrition programs meet standards in terms of cure and dropout rates should continue. Surveys carried out in 2013 indicate that 4 of 5 households in Mbera are food secure. Although the food distribution system has improved, allowing beneficiaries to receive a higher share of their food entitlement, some beneficiaries still do not receive the full intended ration.
The JAM concludes that vulnerability to food insecurity is heterogeneous in Mbera. Spatial analysis shows that there are non-random concentrations of food insecurity within the camp. Vulnerability is correlated with poverty, education and social capital. Household food security status overlaps with the ethnic and socioeconomic fault lines of northern Malian society, an issue that should be understood in order to tackle remaining reservoirs of vulnerability in Mbera camp. The JAM observed that food aid is commonly found on the market, as beneficiaries exchange part of the rations they receive to acquire complementary foods. Poor access to water and fuel in Mbera — a constraint to cooking pulses and fortified blended foods properly — explains why recipients commonly sell a share of the food assistance they receive.
The food security status of the local population is better than expected, with 13.9% of households assessed as food insecure in May 2013. The fact that livestock did not migrate to Mali has probably sustained access to meat and milk for hosts, some of whom also have access to assistance within the camp. Although the host community seems to be coping well for now, the presence of the refugee community has led to widespread environmental impacts that include deforestation, depletion of grazing and water resources that, if left unchecked, could affect the livelihoods of the local population.
The JAM offers some additional analysis of the causes of malnutrition in Mbera. While the factors identified in the qualitative study of malnutrition are confirmed as relevant, the quantitative model presented in the JAM suggests that a child’s nutrition status in Mali is the most important predictor of nutrition status in Mbera.
The mission estimates that humanitarian assistance will have to continue in the medium term in Mbera, due to continuing insecurity in northern Mali. Assistance should increasingly support self-reliance and livelihoods. Considering the challenges in tracking refugee numbers with precision, a beneficiary identification exercise should take place before August to update the planning figures for food assistance; it’s expected that final figures might be 15 to 20% below the current figure of 74,000. Further improvements to the food distribution system are required to reduce waiting times and ensure that beneficiaries receive 100% of the planned ration. Market monitoring will identify whether conditions are conducive for cash and voucher transfers. The high level of acute malnutrition argues for an expansion of blanket feeding to cover all children under 5 as well as lactating mothers. Introducing school feeding would improve the access to education in the camp. Domestic energy programs should be implemented in the camp to counteract the effects of refugees’ presence on local natural resources and to ensure proper preparation of the food ration.