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CRS in Mauritania

As a bridge connecting the northern, Arab nations of North Africa with sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritania is characterized by chronic poverty (42% of the population in 2008) and structural food insecurity (26% of the population in 2013). Nutritional crises are recurrent, with alarmingly high acute malnutrition rates, especially during the lean period. Hit by increasingly intense and frequent shocks (drought, increased market prices, etc.), Mauritania’s most vulnerable households are struggling to protect their basic livelihoods and assets, unable to invest in the future.

Mauritania currently has a youth unemployment rate of 50.8% for men and 69% for women, as the country struggles to match vocational training programs to the national labor market. Additional obstacles to economic independence are the political and ethnic disunity that has plagued the country for centuries. For example, as the last country in the world to officially abolish slavery in 1981, slavery is still considered a major human rights issue in the country.

For well over a decade, Catholic Relief Services, along with its local NGO and government partners, has been working to enhance human dignity and alleviate poverty in Mauritania through innovative, participatory and holistic programming.


People Served: 60,440

Population: 3,596,702 (2015)

Size: 397,955 sq miles; slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico

CRS' History in Mauritania

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has worked in Mauritania for well over a decade, supporting programming through its Dakar office in neighboring Senegal. CRS' long-term presence and close relationship with local partners has allowed us to respond effectively to changing conditions within the country, most recently to food crises related to widespread drought. CRS has supported vulnerable populations through its work which responds to natural disasters, economic fluctuations, poor financial access and malnutrition. 

We are improving food security, nutrition and resilience for those suffering from food crises and chronic vulnerability. One of our goals is to help vulnerable households become more resilient to current and future disasters, such as insect invasions, drought and extreme price fluctuations of agricultural commodities. To do so, CRS is currently implementing its second USAID/OFDA-funded emergency response program in Brakna, Mauritania with local implementing partner Caritas Mauritania. The Integrated Brakna Recovery Initiative (iBRI) and its predecessor the Brakna Recovery Initiative (BRI) continue to provide assistance to 5,000 extremely vulnerable and vulnerable households still suffering from the effects of the 2011-2012 Sahel food security crisis and the 2014 poor agricultural season. These programs have helped communities restore agricultural livelihoods and provided supplemental income through conservation agriculture, livestock fairs, agricultural in-put fairs, cash-for-work, unconditional cash transfers, community garden activities and savings and internal lending communities (SILC). 

In addition to its emergency work, CRS supports The Center for Professional Training and Vocational Placement (CFIP), which provides literacy and professional training to Mauritanian youth. Each year, 120 out-of-school youth receive literacy courses and 140 participate in professional career training in a variety of fields, such as auto mechanics, electrical engineering, small business development, welding/metal work, carpentry and hairdressing. More than 50 students have been placed with partner companies to begin their professional careers. Courses in French, Arabic and an introduction to mathematics are also offered.