Mauritania is facing its worst drought conditions since 2012, and faring more poorly than all Sahel nations that have seen rainfall deficits across the last decade, according to a new report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
At least 34 of 48 regions are affected, particularly those in the country’s south. That’s left 1.4 million people threatened by food insecurity, following a disappointing 2021 rainy season that was recorded at 81% of Mauritania’s monitoring stations. Continued drought, as well as regional conflict, has led to escalating challenges.
“In all agricultural areas, the situation is more than worrying because of the significant decrease in cultivable areas and the expected level of production, which will be almost non-existent in most areas, except in the south of the country, where it will be low,” the report said.
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has expressed concern that the drought is adding to migration numbers, and contributing to tension and conflict over resources.
Mauritania has produced 40% less food than the five-year average, while Mali has seen a decrease of 15% and Burkina Faso about 10%. But beyond agriculture, Mauritania also is heavily livestock-dependent, with the sector contributing 22% of the national gross domestic product.
While Mauritania has seen less direct conflict than Mali and other Sahel nations, its pastoral communities have traditionally been able to cross the border into Mali with their flocks and herds. The violence in Mali has made it impossible to travel these same routes.
“The normal transhumance circuit has been disrupted by the renewed tension in Mali neighboring regions, resulting in a high concentration of livestock on the national territory,” the report said, noting the Hod Ech Chargui region was particularly affected. That’s led to a lack of feed, medicine and other resources for livestock.
The number of Malian refugees fleeing into Mauritania adds to the crisis, the IFRC report said.