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Coronavirus – WFP Mauritania Country Brief

Mauritania is a lower-middle-income country in the Sahel with a population of 4.7 million that lives over a vast but mostly arid 1,030,700 km2 territory. Mauritania is exposed to recurrent cycles of drought, resulting in the degradation of natural resources and structurally affecting reproductive capacity, resilience and food security of the population. According to projections from November 2019, Cadre Harmonisé, 609,180 people will face crisis food insecurity between June and August 2020. Major concerns relate to subsistence farmers who rely primarily on rainfed agriculture and pastoralists whose livelihoods depend on largely depleted rangeland. Against this backdrop, the August 2019 SMART survey indicated that 21 departments (out of 53) are above the severe acute malnutrition emergency threshold of 2 per cent. WFP operations are currently focused on recovery-interventions to improve food security and reduce malnutrition, enhance education achievements, minimise gender inequalities as well as strengthen institutional capacity and help communities adapt to climate change. Mauritania hosts the second largest number of Malian refugees in the Sahel, with more than 60,000 refugees registered in Mbera camp. The COVID-19 food insecurity projection assessed close to 902,000 people facing food insecurity, a 48 per cent increase from the last Cadre Harmonisé. On May 2020, the Mauritanian government announced a national response plan against the new coronavirus and WFP supports the rollout of this plan in close coordination with the United Nations and Non- Governmental Partners. In line with the guidelines set by the United Nations country team, the WFP office in Mauritania has been implementing its Business Continuity Plan since 20 March.

Operational Updates

• Lean season interventions among the most vulnerable Mauritanian populations started during the month of June with the launch of cash transfer distributions in Tagant and Guidimakha regions. To prevent the spread of the COVID-19, distribution measures have been taken, notably the double ration, in order to avoid frequent gatherings. These double distributions cover the months of June and July and reached 53,560 people. A total amount of USD 1,242,519 was distributed. This intervention enables beneficiaries to cover their food needs and ensure their food security in a difficult period. The early arrival of the lean season combined with the consequences of the preventive measures of COVID-19 reinforced food insecurity among vulnerable populations. In Mbera camp, from 2 to 8 June, 990,188 mt of food was distributed to 60,003 refugees and USD 1,396,600 was distributed as cash transfers to 57,633 refugees. These distributions are part of WFP’s response plan to the COVID-19 crisis. WFP and UNHCR exceptionally agreed that all refugees would receive food assistance through food distributions and cash transfers in order to prevent any deterioration of their food security and nutritional situation and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Regarding the prevention and the treatment of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM), from 12 to 15 June, a door- to-door screening of 3,967 children aged 6 to 59 months and 715 pregnant and lactating women (PLW) was carried out in Mbera camp. A lack of nutritional inputs, due to stock shortage, forced the malnutrition treatment centres (CRENAMS) to cease its activities. Distributions are planned in July.

• WFP continues to provide logistics services to government, United Nations and non-governmental partners to facilitate effective field operations for the COVID-19 national response plan. In June, WFP supported the Government in transporting donated medical kits to the warehouse. WFP also recruited two staff to support the Ministry of Health in database management and logistics operations at the warehouse.

• The WFP school feeding programme, which benefits more than 50,000 students, has been put on hold due to the government’s decision to close schools since mid-March to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Discussions are underway to resume the activity on the 1 September. The possibility of distributing take-home rations (THR) has been abandoned as resources will be used to continue the activity. WFP has started four-month household assistance in three Wilayas where school canteens are located

• In June, the Government and WFP signed the African Risk Capacity (ARC) drought insurance policy for the 2020 season. This activity is in line with the larger objective of building an adaptive social protection system in the country, requiring effective and appropriate risk financing mechanisms, in which ARC is participating. WFP has provided to the members of the CSA technical working group (TWG), in charge of ARC with 10 modems to facilitate remote working sessions.

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