© UNICEF/2006/Pirozzi

A woman cradles her malnourished child in a hospital in Nouakchott. High food prices and chronic food shortages are elevating already high rates of acute malnutrition among children and women.

Critical Issues for Children and Women

Unusually heavy rains in August and September 2009 coupled with several hikes in food prices are exacerbating chronic food shortages in Mauritania, particularly during the pre-harvest season (June to September). The country already suffers from high levels of poverty and food insecurity, as agricultural production covers less than half of the national food consumption. Furthermore, the flow of international aid into the country has slowed down following Mauritania’s latest political crisis which erupted in August 2008. Current estimates put the number of people at risk of malnutrition in the five most food-insecure regions at around 220,000, a figure which includes 165,000 children under five and 9,000 pregnant or lactating women1.   One of the main challenges will be to keep Global Acute Malnutrition rates below 10 per cent in all the vulnerable regions by linking management of acute malnutrition with the prevention of stunting in children.

Planned Humanitarian Action for 2010

In 2010, UNICEF will work with the Government of Mauritania, United Nations agencies and international and national NGOs to respond to the needs of 30,000 children with acute malnutrition in five food-insecure regions, as well as 10,000 people in flood-affected communities. Early recovery interventions for up to 20,000 returnees from Senegal and Mali, located mainly in the Brakna, Gorgol, Guidimakha and Trarza regions will also be a priority.  As technical leader of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Nutrition and Education Clusters, and the Child Protection Sub-Cluster, UNICEF will work with partners to provide access to basic health and nutrition services, safe drinking water and sanitation, education for displaced children and a protective environment for all children. UNICEF will also work with local partners to build emergency preparedness to respond to national emergencies, which will include managerial capacity to handle future emergencies. Following are the expected results of UNICEF’s emergency interventions:

Health and Nutrition: UNICEF will ensure effective coordination of nutrition interventions and will support the development of a surveillance system for monitoring the nutritional status of children.  UNICEF will also implement a national child survival and development programme to include treatment of severe acute malnutrition, promotion of infant and young child feeding, prevention of micronutrient deficiencies and routine immunization.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): Access to safe water supplies and sanitation will be assured for at least 20,000 displaced persons, the majority of whom are children and women, through rehabilitation of wells and the construction of sanitation facilities in schools and households. Hygiene practices will be promoted in 25 schools and 25 communities.

Education: At least 3,000 primary schoolchildren, including those who are displaced or recently returned to resettlement areas, will resume their schooling in UNICEF-funded temporary classrooms and tents.  Children will have also have access to necessary learning and recreational materials.

Child Protection: Psychosocial support and access to basic social services will be provided for children subject to domestic abuse, exploitation or separated from their parents because of flooding or food insecurity.  In coordination with the United Nations Development Programme, UNICEF will also provide mine risk education in the two regions with unexploded ordnance as well as give assistance to mine victims.

HIV/AIDS: At least 10,000 vulnerable young people and women in flood-affected areas and returnee camps will have access to information on HIV/AIDS prevention through behaviour change communications.

Summary of UNICEF Emergency Needs to fulfil
Core Commitments for Children for 2010
Sector US$
Health 500,000
Nutrition 1,000,000
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) 200,000
Education 350,000
Child Protection 350,000
HIV/AIDS 50,000
Total 2,450,000

1 CERF allocates US$ 2.2 million for emergency nutritional assistance in Mauritania’, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Press Release, 8 October 2009.