In Mauritania, one in four children lives in absolute poverty, 80 per cent of children experience at least one form of violence, and 3 in 10 children are exposed to drought, floods or suffer from severe acute malnutrition.2 The COVID-19 pandemic and polio outbreaks have exacerbated the situation and hampered the development of a protective environment for children.
UNICEF is committed to guaranteeing children's well-being through an evidence-based, integrated and multi-sectoral humanitarian-development nexus approach, while increasing the accountability and ownership of national stakeholders. The inclusion of gender equality and disability and the scaling-up of community-based mechanisms and innovations are prioritized in order to reach more children.
In 2022, US$18.9 million is required to meet the humanitarian needs of children in Mauritania, 40 per cent of which is needed for the COVID-19 response. This includes US$6.4 million to provide an integrated response to health and malnutrition.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
Despite sustained economic growth, Mauritania's wealth is distributed inequitably, with social sectors and the most vulnerable people, especially children, having the least access to it. Mauritania is facing the dire consequences of climate change, with severe droughts and seasonal flooding affecting the availability of safe drinking water and the use of adequate sanitation practices,8 and endangering peaceful coexistence and social cohesion among communities. This is especially true in the Hodh ech Chargui (HeC) region, which continues to face the consequences of armed conflict in Mali, ongoing since 2012. The country hosts the largest Malian refugee population in the Sahel region, with more than 67,466 Malian refugees living in and around the M’Berra camp.
Approximately 27 per cent of children (472,000) live in absolute poverty and 6 per cent (106,000) live in a situation of severe or extreme deprivation that has an impact on their physical, mental and emotional development.10 Precarious living conditions, combined with socioeconomic disparities, result in limited access to basic social services such as education, with 163,228 children out of school. Distance learning programmes included in the Ministry of Education’s COVID-19 response plan remain irregular throughout the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic and other disease outbreaks, such as measles, polio and Rift Valley Fever severely threaten the population’s resilience and development.12 This epidemiological situation is expected to continue in 2022 (with only 556,073 people having been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing 21 per cent of the national target).
The nutritional context in Mauritania has also deteriorated since the start of the pandemic. In 2021, a total of 1,385,278 people faced food insecurity. Among them, 11.3 per cent suffered from severe forms of food insecurity. Nationally, the global acute malnutrition rate is 11 per cent and the severe acute malnutrition (SAM) rate is 1.9 per cent.14 Twenty-one out of 55 districts are experiencing a nutrition emergency. The Ministry of Health estimates that 136,254 acutely malnourished children, including 32,740 cases of SAM, will require urgent care in 2022.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, different forms of violence, including gender-based violence, have been exacerbated.16 An estimated 71 per cent (350,262) of children aged 1 to 4 years are victims of violence, while 84 per cent (422,510) of children aged 5 to 14 years are subjected to at least one form of psychological or physical punishment by members of their household.17 The registration of children under 5 years of age in the civil registry remains alarmingly low (46.2 per cent).