Operation: Opération: Mauritania



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
5,570 registered refugee children in Mbera camp were enrolled in primary education
100% of refugees in Mbera camp were registered and verified on an individual basis
100% of refugees in Mbera camp had access to primary healthcare
78% of refugee children in urban areas enrolled in public schools
68.4% of Mbera camp refugee households had adequate shelter
2021 planning figures
5,570 primary school-aged Malian refugee children will be enrolled in primary education
100% of Malian refugees will have access to primary health care
100% of people of concern in urban areas will have access to legal assistance
70% of targeted Malian refugee households will receive multipurpose cash assistance to meet their basic needs

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2020 95,601
2019 86,458
2018 84,322


[["Refugees",67637],["Refugee-like situation",26000],["Asylum-seekers",1964]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[19.53236051,19.77346129,20.264194460000002,19.34883472,27.39188862,30.61753129],"expenditure":[14.17643259,12.85847481,13.860247560000001,15.58668975,19.18652618,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[19.53236051,19.77346129,20.264194460000002,19.34883472,27.39188862,30.61753129],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[14.17643259,12.85847481,13.860247560000001,15.58668975,19.18652618,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
  • 2021

Operational context

In 2020, UNHCR provided protection and assistance to almost 64,000 Malian refugees in Mbera camp, and over 5,700 urban refugees and asylum-seekers in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou (mainly from the Central African Republic, Mali and the Syrian Arab Republic). The security situation in Mali remained volatile, limiting the prospect for large-scale returns. While continuing to support the most vulnerable refugees, UNHCR reinforced its engagement with development actors, notably the World Bank, International Labour Organization (ILO) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), to provide local solutions in line with the Global Compact on Refugees.

The pandemic brought border closures and restrictions on movement, but access to territory, refugee status determination procedures and prevention of refoulement remained overall possible though more limited. Despite nationwide restrictions on movements, UNHCR began registering Malian refugees in Nouadhibou in August 2020, delivering protection services to this refugee group for the first time in this region.

UNHCR also began working with the national Social Registry to include the most destitute refugees into the Tekavoul national social protection programme financed by the World Bank.

UNHCR conducted several interventions to enhance assistance for refugees in Mbera camp and surrounding areas, including in the sectors of health, livelihoods and education, and strengthened cash assistance to offset the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic.  

Population trends

UNHCR registered 69,598 people of concern (67,622 refugees and 1,976 asylum-seekers) in Mauritania as of end-2020. Some 2,348 individuals predominantly of Malian origin were newly registered and documented in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, increasing the urban refugee population by 55%. At the end of 2020, the total urban population of concern stood at 5,735 people (2,759 households) from more than 40 nationalities, comprising 39% children, 59% adults and 2% older persons.

There were 63,863 people of concern (14,635 households) in Mbera camp and surrounding villages, of whom 58% were children, 38% adults and 4% older persons. Most were of Tuareg ethnic origin (60.4%), followed by those of Arab origin (33.8%) and to a lesser scale (6.3%) of Fulani, Songhai, Bambara origin. Despite border closures, UNHCR registered 3,276 new arrivals throughout the year, and continued to register out-of-camp Malian refugees in surrounding villages in the Hodh Chargui region.

In August 2020, UNHCR and the National Civil Registration Agency (ANPRTS) launched a joint verification exercise in Bassikounou, the town closest to Mbera camp, to re-verify the Malian citizenship of 18,977 individuals, which is expected to be completed in 2021.

Key achievements

  • Cash assistance was provided to vulnerable refugees in urban areas and in Mbera camp to meet their immediate needs following the pandemic, as well as members of host communities affected by flooding during the rainy season in Bassikounou.
  • Malian refugees in Mbera camp were included in the national health system through the World Bank-funded INAYA project.
  • A joint strategy (with the Social Registry and WFP) was adopted for the inclusion of refugees into the Social Registry beginning in 2021 with World Bank support, a first step towards their inclusion in social security.
  • A ministerial decree (Arrêté 1128/2020) extended the issuance of identification cards to refugees in urban areas. Refugee card-holders will receive a unique national identification number, enabling them to open a bank account or launch a business on a par with nationals.  

Unmet needs

  • While all refugees and host communities had primary healthcare, demand for secondary and tertiary health services remained high, with very limited funding to improve healthcare facilities or enhance the quality of services.
  • With funding prioritized towards maintaining food assistance, there remained insufficient  funding for livelihoods and self-sufficiency, leaving several thousand refugee households in Mbera camp and urban areas at risk of relying on harmful coping mechanisms.
  • In Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, UNHCR was unable to register all asylum-seekers due to limited human resources to carry out registration and refugee status determination.
  • A lack of funding limited cash assistance for urban refugees despite growing needs, including for accommodation and psychosocial support.

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

  • In response to the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19, UNHCR provided core relief items and shelter materials to 3,276 recently arriving refugees in Mbera camp. In addition, UNHCR provided 60% of urban refugees with one-time multipurpose cash assistance to meet their immediate needs.
  • Unearmarked funds allowed UNHCR to support coordination efforts in and around Mbera camp, maintaining camp management and ensuring the continuation of logistic activities.
  • Flexible funding contributed to the provision and maintenance and distribution of water systems in Mbera camp.

Working environment

Mauritania has maintained its generous open-door policy towards refugees and asylum-seekers. Subject to the overall security situation remaining stable in the country and ongoing donor support, significant progress on refugee protection is possible, in line with the Global Compact on Refugees.
UNHCR provides protection and assistance to 57,000 Malian refugees in and around Mbera camp, and to some 2,800 refugees and asylum-seekers in the urban areas of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. The majority of refugees originate from Mali, the Central African Republic, the Syrian Arab Republic and Côte d’Ivoire.
Signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and OAU Convention, Mauritania is expected to adopt a national asylum law in the near future. The law will pave the way for establishing an asylum procedure which will guarantee refugee rights, boost their self-reliance and incorporate them into national development plans. In the meantime, UNHCR works closely with national authorities, to promote knowledge of and respect for refugee rights.
The gradual shift from emergency to a protracted refugee situation calls for longer-term and more solutions-focused responses. Therefore, in 2020 UNHCR will continue to advocate with development actors and donors, with the aim of increasing self-reliance opportunities for refugees and their host communities.
Despite the return of approximatively 2,000 refugees to Mali at the beginning of 2019, large scale returns of Malian refugees are not expected in 2020, given the deteriorating situation in Mali.
In urban areas, UNHCR will continue to respond to the protection needs of refugees and asylum-seekers and support the Government of Mauritania to protect people of concern within mixed population movements. A survey conducted by UNHCR in 2019 has for the first time provided key data regarding refugee populations in Nouadhibou, which will inform UNHCR’s response in the area in 2020. Additionally, the beginning of out-of-camp registration for Malian refugees will likely increase the need for assistance and legal protection in urban areas.
UNHCR will continue to work 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.

Key priorities

UNHCR’s protection and solutions strategy for all refugees in Mauritania will focus on:
  • Advocating with the authorities for the adoption of a national asylum law.
  • Ensuring protection and access to essential services, by further enhancing registration and ensuring the issuance of birth certificates and identity documents for refugees by the Government.
  • Advocating for the establishment of a health care system that includes refugees.
  • Empowering refugees to become self-reliant.
  • Promoting peaceful coexistence through impact projects in host villages around Mbera camp and conflict management and prevention structures.
Latest contributions
  • 15-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 14-OCT-2021
  • Qatar

    private donors

  • 12-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Ireland
  • Italy

    private donors

  • 09-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 08-OCT-2021
  • Japan

    private donors

  • 06-OCT-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 05-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 04-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 01-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 30-SEP-2021

    private donors

  • Switzerland

    private donors

  • Brazil

    private donors

  • Philippines

    private donors