More on Mauritania

What are the current issues in Mauritania?

Located in the arid Sahel region of West Africa, Mauritania is one of the world’s least developed countries.  
With a population of just over 3.4 million, the country is ranked 161 out of 187 countries in the 2014 UNDP Human Development Index, and 138 out of 147 in gender inequality.  In the southern area of the country, farmers and agropastoralists are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and drought. 

WFP needs urgent support to continue to provide food and nutritional assistance to vulnerable Mauritanian communities and Malian refugees. Lack of funding is severely hampering WFP’s work with drastic consequences on the lives of the most vulnerable. 


Over half the population – 68 percent – is either near or living in poverty, with lack of access to health and education services.  About a quarter of Mauritanians live on less than USD 1.25 per day, which creates a high vulnerability to food insecurity. 

Chronic food insecurity

Mauritania suffers from chronic food insecurity and high prevalence of malnutrition, with about 15 percent of the population consistently food insecure. In areas where the “lean season” lasts five to six months and brings hunger and unpredictable rains, the resources of the rural poor are strained.

Mauritania has a structural food deficit: agricultural capacity is under-exploited, the means of production are limited, and farmland is prone to desertification, causing Mauritania to import 70 percent of its food items.  

The rising prices of basic food products, combined with a decrease in household revenue in rural areas, has increasingly lead to an elevated risk of food insecurity. Malnutrition is also high, reaching above the World Health Organization’s “alert” threshold of 10 percent during the lean season.  Over 120,000 children under five remain malnourished countrywide.

Neighbouring socio-political turmoil

Though security in Mauritania is generally stable, the overall situation in the wider Sahel sub-region is unpredictable.  In 2012, armed conflict in northern Mali forced thousands of Malians to cross the border into Mauritania.  As of 1 July 2015, there are over 49,000 refugees still living in Mberra refugee camp.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Mauritania

Food assistance 

WFP assists people affected by food insecurity with food, cash or food vouchers. This assistance is increased during the lean season when communities are most at risk. WFP supports the most vulnerable households in rain-fed, agro-pastoral areas in the south where food insecurity and acute malnutrition rates are the highest.

Resilience-building activities

WFP collaborates with the government to build community resilience to the adverse effects of climate change by encouraging sustainable livelihood projects and improving technical services at the community level.  WFP provides food-for-asset opportunities to about 188,705 people to protect their livelihoods in the face of recurrent climate shocks by creating or rehabilitating land for agriculture, among other projects.

Nutrition support

WFP aims to reduce the prevalence of underweight children and cases of acute malnutrition among children under five, as well as pregnant and nursing women, in vulnerable areas through targeted supplementary feeding and nutrition awareness activities. 

School meals

WFP provides school meals to over 150,000 children in areas with high rates of food insecurity and low rates of school attendance or retention.

Supporting refugees

WFP provides assistance to about 50,000 Malian refugees in Mbera camp, which includes monthly food distributions to all refugees; fortified nutritional supplements for children under five and pregnant and nursing women to treat and prevent moderate acute malnutrition, and a daily hot meal for children in school.

Featured Mauritania publications

  • Mauritania: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 439 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Mauritania? Visit the Mauritania publications archive.