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2014 UNHCR country operations profile - Mauritania

| Overview |

Working environment

  • Following the conflict that erupted in northern Mali in 2012, by mid-August 2013, 72,000 Malian refugees had sought refuge in Mauritania and were settled in a well-equipped refugee camp in the remote south-east area of the country. UNHCR is progressively moving out of the emergency response phase, with the number of arrivals having shrunk to an average of 13 refugees a day in August 2013, from a peak of 1,000 to 1,500 in early 2012.

  • Since June 2013, UNHCR has been observing a small number of spontaneous returns to Mali. However, despite efforts to stabilize the country, including the deployment of a peacekeeping force and the presidential elections in mid-2013, the humanitarian and security situation in Mali remains fragile. Large-scale returns of refugees are therefore not yet envisaged and the Mauritania Office and its partners are maintaining their presence in Bassikounou/Mbera camp to continue the humanitarian response and ensure preparedness in case of any new influx, should the situation deteriorate.

  • For urban refugees, in the absence of a national asylum system, UNHCR conducts refugee status determination (RSD); works to strengthen the capacity of national authorities on asylum; provides assistance targeting refugees with specific needs; and seeks durable solutions for the refugees. By 31 July 2013, UNHCR had registered 478 refugees and 975 asylum seekers living in urban areas in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries. In addition, 26,000 Sahrawi people continue to be considered as being in a refugee-like situation. They have not approached UNHCR as they are well integrated in Mauritania.

  • Mauritania is a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and is in the process of developing a national asylum system with UNHCR's assistance. A draft law on asylum is awaiting adoption at the next parliamentary session, following the legislative elections scheduled for November 2013.

  • Over 12,000 Mauritanian refugees are registered in Mali, of whom some 8,000 have expressed the wish to return home. Activities related to the repatriation and reintegration of these refugees will start once a Tripartite Agreement between Mauritania, Mali and UNHCR is concluded.

  • The Government of Mauritania provides land for Mbera camp and security for Malian refugees and humanitarian workers in the country, as well as access to basic services for urban refugees.

People of concern

The main groups of people of concern planned for in 2014 under the Mauritania operation are: Malian refugees who fled insecurity in northern Mali; urban refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly Ivorian and Congolese; and Mauritanian returnees from Mali and Senegal.

Planning figures

UNHCR 2014 planning figures for Mauritania
TYPE OF POPULATION ORIGIN Dec 2013 Dec 2014 Dec 2015
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total 97,000 71,000 94,940 68,940 76,960 50,960
Refugees Dem. Rep. of the Congo 100 100 120 120 140 140
Côte d'Ivoire 430 430 500 500 520 520
Mali 70,000 70,000 60,000 60,000 50,000 50,000
Various 140 140 170 170 200 200
People in refugee-like situations Western Sahara 26,000 - 26,000 - 26,000 -
Asylum-seekers Dem. Rep. of the Congo 50 50 40 40 30 30
Côte d'Ivoire 200 200 50 50 40 40
Senegal 20 20 - - - -
Various 60 60 60 60 30 30
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-refugees) Mauritania - - 8,000 8,000 - -

| Response |

Needs and strategies

In 2014, it is expected that the operation for Malian refugees will progressively stabilize, with fewer refugee arrivals and growing numbers of refugees leaving the camp, including cases of spontaneous returns to Mali. However, it is anticipated that the situation in Mali will remain fragile and will not yet allow for large-scale returns. UNHCR and its partners will maintain their presence in Bassikounou/Mbera to sustain the humanitarian response for an estimated 60,000 Malian refugees in Mbera camp. Emphasis will be put on ensuring efficient coordination of the response and continued coverage of the refugees' basic needs, including in the sectors of protection, food, water, sanitation and hygiene, health, nutrition, non-food items (NFIs), and education. Priority will be given to addressing the specific needs of vulnerable refugees. In 2014, UNHCR will focus increasingly on income-generating activities and launch community-based projects to enhance the refugees' self-reliance and promote peaceful coexistence between the refugees and the host community.

Given the nomadic nature of the refugees and their close links with the host population, the management of population figures will continue to be challenging. Following the introduction of new verification procedures at the border and in the camp and the launching of a biometric registration exercise in Mbera camp together with the authorities in April 2013, UNHCR will regularly update its database with reliable population figures in 2014.

In terms of protection and assistance for urban refugees, UNHCR will continue to advocate for the adoption and the enforcement of a law on asylum, in line with international standards, to help preserve the rights of refugees (e.g. access to civil status documentation, the right to employment etc.). Pending the establishment of a national asylum system, the Office will continue to conduct RSD and build the capacity of governmental authorities on asylum issues.

Given the poor economic conditions of the majority of the refugees, the Office will continue to cover their basic needs by providing health and education assistance as well as shelter support (lump sum) for refugees with specific needs.

In parallel, UNHCR, together with partners, will support and increase livelihood activities and microfinance projects to help the refugees become more self-reliant and less dependent on humanitarian assistance, pending the achievement of a durable solution.

Once a Tripartite Agreement between Mauritania, Mali and UNHCR is concluded, UNHCR will provide support to the Mauritanian authorities for the implementation of repatriation and reintegration activities for Mauritanian returnees from Mali.

| Implementation |


UNHCR works closely with the Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization (MIDEC). It also participates in the UN Country Team and Humanitarian Country Team and works with a range of implementing and operational partners. At the request of the Mauritanian Government, UNHCR is coordinating the response to the Malian refugee situation, in close collaboration with MIDEC and a follow-up committee appointed by the authorities. Regular coordination meetings are held in Nouakchott and Bassikounou with the authorities, UN agencies, NGOs and national civil society partners.

2014 UNHCR partners in Mauritania
Implementing partners
Government agencies: Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization
NGOs: Commission for Food Security, Intermón Oxfam, Intersos, Lutheran World Federation, ONG Actions, SOS Désert
Operational partners
NGOs: Action Contre la Faim - Spain, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Appui au Développement Intégré des Communautés Rurales, Association Mauritanienne des Droits de l'Homme, Association Mauritanienne pour la Promotion de la Famille, Médecins sans Frontières - Belgium, ONG Espoirs, Solidarités International
Others: ICRC, IOM, Mauritanian Red Crescent, OCHA, OHCHR, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNV, WFP

| Financial information |

In 2012, the financial requirements for UNHCR's operation in Mauritania increased dramatically to USD 38.1 million as a result of the response to the Mali Situation. In 2014, the financial requirements for the operation are set at USD 24 million, a decrease of USD 6 million when compared to the revised 2013 budget of USD 30 million. This reduction is due to the shift from essential services to the repatriation of Malian refugees, should this materialize in the course of 2014. Given the wide range of needs, predictable and flexible funding will help the Office to manage the changing situation, particularly if voluntary return for Malian refugees in Mbera camp becomes a possibility.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105

UNHCR contact information

UNHCR Represenatation UNHCR in Mauritania
Style of Address Represenatation UNHCR Nouakchott
Street Address Ilot K No. 143, Route de la Corniche, Nouakchott, Mauritania
Mailing Address B.P. 4405, Nouakchott, Mauritania
Telephone 222 5 257 415
Facsimile 222 5 256 176
Time Zone GMT + 0
Working Hours
Monday:8:00 - 17:00
Tuesday:8:00 - 17:00
Wednesday:8:00 - 17:00
Thursday:8:00 - 17:00
Friday:8:00 - 17:00
Public Holidays 01 January 2014, New Year's Day
14 January 2014, Maouloud
01 May 2014, Labour Day
28 July 2014, Korite
29 July 2014, Korite
06 October 2014, Eid Al-Adha
07 October 2014, Eid Al-Adha
23 October 2014, Eid Al-Adha
27 November 2014, Independence Day
25 December 2014, Christmas Day



UNHCR contact information

Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Mauritania [1]
Refugees [2] 92,767
Asylum Seekers [3] 845
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 93,612
Originating from Mauritania [1]
Refugees [2] 34,257
Asylum Seekers [3] 3,860
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 1
Total Population of Concern 38,118
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
2014 0
2013 0
2012 0
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 7,865
2006 0
2005 0
2004 0
2003 0
2002 0
2001 0
2000 0
Private Sector Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2006
2014 0
2013 0
2012 59,576
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0

Mauritania UNHCR Fundraising Reports Rss FeedUNHCR Fundraising Reports

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Barbara Hendricks visits Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks met with Malian refugees in Damba Camp on July 6, 2012, in northern Burkina Faso. The acclaimed soprano is using the visit to highlight the plight of tens of thousands of refugees who have fled from conflict in their country this year and are living in camps or settlements in neighbouring countries. As of early July, more than 198,000 Malians had fled to Mauritania (88,825), Burkina Faso (65,009) and Niger (44,987). At least 160,000 were estimated to be displaced within Mali, most in the north.

Barbara Hendricks visits Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

The UN refugee agency has just renewed its appeal for funds to help meet the needs of tens of thousands of Malian refugees and almost 300,000 internally displaced people. The funding UNHCR is seeking is needed, among other things, for the provision of supplementary and therapeutic food and delivery of health care, including for those suffering from malnutrition. This is one of UNHCR's main concerns in the Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania, which hosts more than 70,000 Malians. A survey on nutrition conducted last January in the camp found that more than 13 per cent of refugee children aged under five suffer from acute malnutrition and more than 41 per cent from chronic malnutrition. Several measures have been taken to treat and prevent malnutrition, including distribution of nutritional supplements to babies and infants, organization of awareness sessions for mothers, increased access to health facilities, launch of a measles vaccination campaign and installation of better water and sanitation infrastructure. Additional funding is needed to improve the prevention and response mechanisms. UNHCR appealed last year for US$144 million for its Mali crisis operations in 2013, but has received only 32 per cent to date. The most urgent needs are food, shelter, sanitation, health care and education.

The photographs in this set were taken by Bechir Malum.

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

Mauritania: Mali Elections In Mauritania Play video

Mauritania: Mali Elections In Mauritania

Hundreds of Malian refugees voted in exile at the weekend in the presidential election in their home country, way down on the numbers eligible to cast a ballot.

Mauritania: Learning in the DesertPlay video

Mauritania: Learning in the Desert

UNHCR works to give children access to education while they are living in exile.
Mauritania: Growing NumbersPlay video

Mauritania: Growing Numbers

In the last six months, thousands of Malians have come to Mbera refugee camp seeking safety. UNHCR is coordinating water, food and health services with the help of partner agencies.
Mauritania: Looking After Your OwnPlay video

Mauritania: Looking After Your Own

UNHCR and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) are training refugees in Mauritania to become health care assistants in the camps where they have fled to.
Mauritania: Scramble for WaterPlay video

Mauritania: Scramble for Water

Drought in Mauritania's northern desert region affects thousands of Malian refugees.
Mauritania:  A Desert VisitPlay video

Mauritania: A Desert Visit

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres travels to north-west Mauritania to visit some of the world's most isolated refugees.
Mauritania: Help in the DesertPlay video

Mauritania: Help in the Desert

UNHCR and partner organizations are taking on the challenges of helping refugees arriving from Mali at the isolated and arid northern border of Mauritania.
Mauritania: Convoy to SafetyPlay video

Mauritania: Convoy to Safety

At Mauritania's border with Mali, a convoy of vehicles sets off with more than 1,500 Malian refugees to Mbera, a camp established 50 kilometres away.
Mauritania: Scramble for WaterPlay video

Mauritania: Scramble for Water

Drought in Mauritania's northern desert region affects thousands of Malian refugees
The Journey Home to MauritaniaPlay video

The Journey Home to Mauritania

It has been a long wait, but up to 24,000 Mauritanians are poised to return home from Senegal following a 20-year exile. For many, it will be their first visit to the land of their forefathers.
Testimonial: Mauritanian survivorPlay video

Testimonial: Mauritanian survivor

Testimonial of a Mauritanian survivor