In 2023, Mauritania faced an influx of more than 55,000 arrivals, driven by the deteriorating security situation in neighboring Mali – a significant increase compared to 2022 (12,000 arrivals).

As of 29 February 2024, the Hodh Chargui region in south-eastern Mauritania, near the border with Mali, hosted an estimated 181,000 Malians, including 99,000 in Mbera Camp. UNHCR works closely with the Government of Mauritania and other partners to respond to this influx.

In 2024, UNHCR will continue to provide life-saving assistance to meet the needs of the most vulnerable refugees and host communities, while also investing in sustainable solutions aiming to promote resilience and increased self-reliance.

Operational Context

The deteriorating security situation in Mali, coupled with the withdrawal of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA), has triggered an influx of 55,000 Malians into Mauritania and pushed 8,000 Mauritanians who had settled in Mali to return in 2023. The majority of arrivals (41,000) have settled in over 90 locations in the Hodh Chargui region near the border, while 14,000 in Mbera camp, bring the camp’s population to almost 100,000 people – far exceeding the camp’s official capacity of 70,000.

In addition to the refugee population in Hodh Chargui, 19,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are currently registered in urban areas, particularly in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. Arrival trends have continued throughout January and February 2024, with 19,000 new arrivals reported through the population monitoring flow exercise, bringing the total number of displaced persons in Mauritania to over 200,000.

While Malian refugees continue to benefit from prima facie recognition in Hodh Chargui, robust registration efforts within and beyond the camp are imperative, serving as a cornerstone for both protection measures and access to vital services.

2023 and 2024 arrivals have added a strain to a region already facing challenges such as multidimensional poverty, low education rates, limited basic services, and climate shocks. Many brought with them livestock heads (around 240,000), which further increase the pressure on natural resources, particularly water and pasture. Urgent humanitarian interventions are needed, particularly in support of the out-of-camp response, with a focus on protection, health, the environment and natural resources, water, food security and shelter.

Most sites where refugees are settling in Hodh Chargui are in remote areas and lack basic services: only 60% of the refugees residing in Hodh Chargui have access to government health centres within 15 km; many water sources are undrinkable; open defecation is widespread; and waste management is absent. The majority face food insecurity and 70% of households need shelter and core relief items. New arrivals have provided accounts of indiscriminate violence by armed actors and have cited horrific incidents, such as rape and executions. As a result, trauma is widespread among the newly displaced and there are enormous needs for psychosocial support. Protection risks include exploitation due to resource scarcity, lack of documentation, early marriages, school dropouts, and inadequate environmental and sanitary conditions.

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