Operation: Opération: Mauritania



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Key Figures

2019 year-end results
700 income-generating activities were initiated, as well as 200 vocational training programmes, in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO)
150 refugees were provided with entrepreneurship / business training
100% of refugees were registered and verified on an individual basis in Mbera camp
100%  of refugees had access to primary health care in Mbera camp
90% of the population in host communities stated, during a survey, that they accepted the presence of refugees
2020 planning figures
100% of primary school-aged Malian refugee children will be enrolled in primary education
100% of refugee children under 12 months old will have their birth certificates issued by the authorities 
39% of Malian refugees (18-59 years) will have increased self-reliance through own business or self-employment
15% of refugee and asylum-seeker youth (15-24 years) in urban areas will be enrolled in certified livelihoods training 

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2019 86,458
2018 84,322
2017 78,183


[["Refugees",58909],["Refugee-like situation",26000],["Asylum-seekers",1549]]
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2019 {"categories":[2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020],"budget":[24.368373692000002,19.53236051,19.77346129,20.264194460000002,19.34883472,24.591888620000002],"expenditure":[13.02928311,14.17643259,12.85847481,13.860247560000001,15.58668975,null]} {"categories":[2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020],"p1":[24.368373692000002,19.53236051,19.77346129,20.264194460000002,19.34883472,24.591888620000002],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020],"p1":[13.02928311,14.17643259,12.85847481,13.860247560000001,15.58668975,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020

Operational context

In 2019, UNHCR continued to provide protection and assistance to 58,000 Malian refugees in Mbera camp, 50 kilometers from the border with Mali, and to some 3,800 urban refugees and asylum-seekers in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou (mainly from Mali, the Central African Republic, and the Syrian Arab Republic). The security situation in Mali remained volatile, minimizing the prospect for any large-scale returns. While extending support to the most vulnerable refugees, UNHCR also reinforced its engagement with development actors, notably with the World Bank, to support the transition to inclusion and self-reliance, in line with the Global Compact on Refugees.

The Government of Mauritania maintained an open-door policy for refugees and demonstrated commitment to further enhancing refugee protection through its pledges at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019. A notable development was that UNHCR was able to start registering Malians outside Mbera camp, broadening the protection space and services available to them.

To enhance assistance for refugees, UNHCR coordinated a number of interventions in and around Mbera camp as well as in urban areas, in the sectors of health, livelihoods and education. UNHCR introduced cash-based interventions, in line with the Office's global policy, following a feasibility study in the areas of education and energy.

Population trends

Mauritania hosted the largest number of refugees from Mali in the Sahel region. Around 400 refugees per month sought protection in Mauritania, resulting in over 4,500 new arrivals in 2019 in Mbera camp. In addition, some 2,900 individuals who had not previously approached UNHCR were registered. An increased number of refugees from the central region of Mali arrived due to the expansion of the conflict there. They were mostly of Fulani origin -Tuaregs and Arabs having been the main ethnicities before.

In the urban centres of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, UNHCR registered some 3,800 refugees and asylum-seekers — a nearly 50% increase compared to 2018.The increase was attributed to both new arrivals and the start of out-of-camp registration of Malians.

In 2019, 13 cases (48 individuals) departed and 35 cases (57 individuals) were accepted for resettlement.  


  • In coordination with the Government, UNHCR conducted the first out-of-camp registration of Malian refugees and worked with local authorities and the refugees to ensure they were registered by the responsible Government agency.
  • The Mauritanian Government committed to include Mbera refugee camp in national health services with the support of the World Bank under the IDA 18 sub-window for refugees, and took active steps towards this direction.
  • UNHCR promoted peaceful coexistence and advocated for more development funds to improve self-reliance through livelihood activities, both for refugees and the host community.

Unmet needs

  • While access to minimum primary health care was ensured for all refugees, asylum-seekers, and host communities, the desirable level of quality health care could not be attained due to lack of adequate funding. 
  • The self-reliance sector faced a major funding gap and could only partly make up for the reduction in food assistance in 2019, leaving several thousand refugee households in Mbera camp and urban areas at risk of resorting to negative coping mechanisms.
  • In the urban centers of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, UNHCR was unable to register all asylum-seekers, due to a lack of resources.
  • Refugees in urban settings received very little, if any, assistance due to lack of resources, despite significant needs for accommodation, education for children and psychosocial support.

Operational Environment

Mauritania has maintained its generous open-door policy towards refugees and asylum-seekers. Signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and OAU Convention, UNHCR continues its advocacy for the adoption of a national asylum law. The law will enhance refugee protection, self-reliance and integration into national development plans.
The instability in Mali has evolved from an emergency to a protracted situation requiring a shift to longer-term, solutions-oriented responses. Following a profiling exercise completed recently in Mbera camp, a strategy based on vulnerabilities will be rolled out for assistance in 2019. Due to the unstable situation in northern Mali, large scale returns of Malian refugees are still not expected in 2019. UNHCR will continue to advocate with development actors to improve the self-reliance of refugees and their host community residing in Bassikounou, close to the border with Mali.
In urban areas, UNHCR will continue to respond to the protection needs of refugees and asylum-seekers, and support the Government of Mauritania in addressing mixed movements in a protection-sensitive way, as the crossing from Libya to Europe becomes more difficult and the Western African route to Europe more active.
UNHCR works closely with the Government of Mauritania, UN agencies, NGOs and donors under the umbrella of the UN Sustainable Development Partnership Framework, which integrates humanitarian and development interventions and includes a strategy to strengthen peaceful coexistence and self-reliance for refugees and host communities in Mauritania.
Current activities that aim at strengthening refugees’ livelihoods will have a higher chance for impact if care and maintenance activities addressing basic needs and food security in the camp are also funded at an adequate level.
In 2019, both financial and technical support is required to ensure the provision of basic health services is maintained in Mbera camp after the departure of Doctors Without Borders. Overall, the lack of adequate funding could jeopardize the results achieved so far and increase instability in an already volatile region.

Key priorities

In 2019, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Ensuring protection and access to essential services;
  • Empowering refugees in becoming self-reliant;
  • Supporting the host population to promote peaceful coexistence;
  • Providing refugees with access to durable solutions;
  • Advocating with authorities towards the adoption of a national asylum law and issuance of documentation for refugees in Mauritania.
Latest contributions
  • 01-JUL-2020
  • 30-JUN-2020
  • Japan

    private donors

  • Malaysia

    private donors

  • Brazil
  • Spain

    private donors

  • Thailand

    private donors

  • Norway

    private donors

  • Switzerland
  • Germany
  • 29-JUN-2020
  • Norway

    private donors

  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • Switzerland
  • Sweden
  • Argentina
  • Spain
  • Greece

    private donors

  • Romania
  • Sweden

    private donors