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CRS in Mauritania

Culturally diverse and scenically unique, Mauritania is a place apart. Bridging the Arab Maghreb and the Sahel region, Mauritania is also a country of contradictions. Through immensely rich in profitable mineral resources, the people of Mauritania constantly battle poverty. Located almost entirely within the Sahara desert, Mauritania faces economic instability, structural food insecurity, and high youth unemployment, which affects more women than men. Nutritional crises are recurrent, with high acute malnutrition rates, especially during the lean period of the year. The country is also hit by increasingly intense and frequent shocks, such as reoccurring natural disasters (droughts, floods), increasing food prices and overall scarcity of resources on which people depend. Mauritania’s most vulnerable households struggle to protect their basic livelihoods and assets, hindering their opportunities to invest in the future.

Catholic Relief Services, in collaboration with local NGO and government partners, has been working in Mauritania to enhance human dignity and alleviate poverty through innovative, participatory and holistic programming.


People Served: 60,440

Population: 3,758,571

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

CRS' History in Mauritania

Catholic Relief Services 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.

CRS has supported vulnerable populations through its work in response to natural disasters, economic fluctuations, poor financial access and malnutrition. To improve food security, nutrition and resilience for those suffering from food crises and chronic vulnerability, CRS implemented an emergency response program in the region of Brakna, with local implementing partner Caritas Mauritania. The initiative was successful in providing assistance to 5,000 extremely vulnerable households suffering from the effects of the Sahel food security crisis. 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). 

CRS continues to improve communities’ economic resilience through a Sharia SILC pilot project implemented in many villages in Mauritania’s Brakna region. In Mauritania, microfinance services are often unavailable to Muslim communities due to concern that lending products are incompatible with Islamic law. CRS has thus adapted its SILC model, which provides vulnerable families safe and regular opportunities to save money and access loans in their communities. CRS Senegal is training 14 SILC Private Service Providers (PSPs) on Sharia compliant SILC methods. These PSPs will work with as many of their previously supported SILCs as are interested in implementing the new project.

In addition to emergency work, CRS has provided literacy and professional training to Mauritanian youth in fields such as auto mechanics, electrical engineering, small business development, welding/metal work, carpentry and hairdressing. Many students who participated in these initiatives have since been placed with partner companies to begin their professional careers.