We’re building a new UNICEF.org.
As we swap out old for new, pages will be in transition. Thanks for your patience – please keep coming back to see the improvements.


Nourishing the children of M'bera refugee camp, Mauritania

A treatment centre in the M'bera refugee camp, Mauritania - the largest camp for refugees fleeing northern Mali - helps Malian families cope with malnutrition.  Watch in RealPlayer


By Brahim Ould Isselmou

The 2013 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed shows that major progress has been made in lowering child mortality in all regions of the world and at all levels of national income. Nonetheless, even bigger gains are needed if the world is to meet Millennium Development Goal 4 – reducing under-5 mortality by two thirds by 2015.

Drought and disease have put the already vulnerable Malian children in M’bera refugee camp, Mauritania, at great risk of malnutrition. Treatment centres and efforts to raise awareness among the refugees about hygiene measures and the warning signs of malnutrition are giving them a fighting chance.

M’BERA REFUGEE CAMP, Mauritania, 8 October 2013 – It’s difficult to work in the extreme daytime heat of M’bera refugee camp, so mothers bring their children to the centre for the treatment of malnourished children early in the morning.

© UNICEF Video
A father holds his child in M'bera camp. While the nutrition centres are treating malnutrition, awareness-raising programmes are helping prevent its recurrence.

When Fahnou Walet Ehya first brought her daughter in, the little girl weighed 6.6 kg and was suffering from malaria. She received medical care and supplementary food. Her recovery has been closely monitored, and she now weighs a healthier 8.1 kg.

“Thanks to God, my daughter has benefitted a lot from this programme,” says Ms. Walet Ehya. “Now she only has a small cold and some effects from malaria.”

Malnutrition in M’bera

M’bera refugee camp is located in the remote southeastern corner of Mauritania, near the border with Mali. It is the largest refugee camp that has been established for people fleeing conflict in northern Mali – the camp population is 75,261. More than half of the refugees here are children. They face a host of difficulties and dangers living here, including malnutrition.

Malnutrition among the camp’s children has various causes. Both the M’bera camp and the regions from which the refugees have fled have been affected by the Sahel nutrition crisis. These are vulnerable populations, and illness such as malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhoeal disease can cause children like Ms. Walet Ehya’s daughter to become malnourished rapidly.

Head nurse Ely Ould Taleb has treated hundreds of children suffering from malnutrition. “Children have a lot of problems, especially in relation to hygiene,” she says. “There is a lack of hygiene, and there are many cases of diarrhoea, especially among children under 5.”

Raising awareness saves lives

The incidence of diarrhoea, respiratory infections and malaria can be radically reduced using simple and affordable interventions. UNICEF and partners are distributing soap and mosquito nets and providing community education on their importance and on how to use them most effectively to prevent children from becoming ill and developing malnutrition.

One of the places where mothers can learn about hygiene is in the child-friendly spaces UNICEF has established in the nutrition centres. Tafinafin Walet Attaher from the NGO INTERSOS works in collaboration with UNICEF to educate mothers and run workshops with children recovering from malnutrition. She also teaches parents how to recognize the signs that their children are getting sick and need to be brought back for treatment.

“Every day, I educate them so that they bring the children back before they relapse, so they bring them here in time. Anytime they see children dehydrated, they bring them in time,” she says.

Together with UNHCR, WFP, Médecins Sans Frontières and other partners in nutrition, UNICEF is making a difference for the refugee children in M’bera and helping mothers and communities achieve better health and nutrition outcomes for their children.



UNICEF Photography: Committing to child survival

New enhanced search