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Mass arrival of Malian refugees in south-east puts pressure on limited resources

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Mauritania
  • February 2024
Mass arrival of Malian refugees in south-east puts pressure on limited resources

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Projected Outlook to September 2024
  • Key Messages
    • In February across agricultural and agropastoral areas, household food stocks and animal products are remain broadly available, allowing the majority of households to cover their food consumption needs and be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). However, some poor households whose food stocks are starting to deplete, pushing them to increasingly rely on markets for their food, are experiencing Stress (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In particular, in the Hodh El Chargui region, the massive arrival of Malian refugees in recent months following the deterioration of the situation in Mali, is putting pressure on local resources in the area, already weakened by the rainfall deficit in 2023. Needs are expected to increase as pressure on food supplies increases, and the region is expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from the start of the lean season in June.
    • As of January 31, 2024, UNHCR documented 71,301 refugees outside the camp in the wilaya of Hodh El Chargui, including 14,410 new arrivals in the month of January 2024 alone. While most of the arrivals are pastoralists who brought their livestock and who were able to access daily work opportunities, more than a third of them said they relied on the charity of the host population, according to an IOM survey. This situation is also likely to worsen in the coming months. For arrivals registered at the Mbera camp, the WFP has just received a donation of 5 million dollars through an agreement with USAID, for the benefit of Malian refugees that is expected to sustain programs within the camp.
    • Markets are well supplied with both imported and local products. However, the prices of local agricultural products are up everywhere compared to the previous month due to the slight tightening of the market supply as stocks start to decline. On the other hand, the prices of imported foodstuffs, notably sugar, vegetable oil, rice and pasta, after having experienced a sharp increase during the last two decades of January, are in slight decline. However, it should be noted that the prices of imported vegetables have increased since January 2024 due to the new pricing on these products. Livestock markets are also well stocked this month. While prices are down in February compared to last month due to a slowdown in urban demand, they still remain higher than those of the same period in 2023. At the Nouakchott market for example, the price of the average sheep fell by around 200 MRU and at Adel Bagrou market, the drop is around 300 MRU compared to last month.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal Calendar
    Seasonal Calendar for typical year in Mauritania

    Source: FEWS NET

    ZoneCurrent Anomalies    Projected Anomalies
    National
    • Pastures in most of the country are deteriorating seasonally but remain relatively abundant in the south. This is leading to a high concentration of livestock in the south, which is likely contributing to a sharp deterioration in the availability of surface water. On the whole, water quality remains fair to good (Figure 1).  
    • The absence of cold-season rains (January and February) in the north (Tiris Zemmour, Nouadhibou and Adrar) has led to a rapid deterioration in pastoral conditions, precipitating and accelerating transhumance towards the south.
    • In the valley zone, the food situation remains difficult for poor households, most of whom depend on off-season crops, which are expected to be harvested in March.
    • The influx of new refugees and their livestock into the Bassikounou region as a result of the deteriorating security situation in Mali is set to continue over the coming months, accelerating the depletion of pastures and water sources already severely affected by the rainfall deficit. At present, no major security incidents have been reported, but tensions could arise over access to limited resources. 
    • The blockade imposed by armed groups on Mali's main supply routes will continue to restrict the flow of agricultural produce and livestock from Mali.
    • ANSADE forecasts a slowdown in consumer prices, which could reach less than 5% of their 2023 level by 2024 (Figure 2). However, the new customs tax on imported vegetables will likely increase their cost. 
    • During the month of Ramadan, which starts in mid-March, the government has scheduled a special program called "Operation Ramadan", which will make basic foodstuffs available to consumers at affordable prices. This operation is expected to bring relief to the poorest households.

    Figure 1

    Animal concentrations as of February 22, 2024
    Concentration des animaux au 22 février 2024

    Source: Action Contre la Faim Bulletin surveillance pastorale de la Mauritanie

    Figure 2

    Monthly trend in overall National Food Price Index (INPC) compared with food products at national and international level over the last five years
    Evolution mensuelle de IHCP global comparé à celui des produits alimentaires au niveau national et international au cours des 5 dernières années

    Source: ANSADE


    Projected Outlook to September 2024

    In rainfed and agro-pastoral zones, the rainfall deficits from the 2023 rainy season led to a drop in production of traditional crops (millet and sorghum) of -35 and -7 percent compared to last year and to the five-year average. However, prospects for off-season rice production are good, with a projected increase of 4 percent and 43 percent higher than last year and the five-year average. As food stocks start to deplete in the coming months approaching the lean season, households will become increasingly dependent on markets. As such, they are expected to increase their engagement in market gardening activities, gathering, selling of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), as well as departures to urban centers and gold panning sites for informal labor opportunities. Seasonal migration to the cities, which lasts until June, will be more important due to the early reduction in household stocks. However, given the difficult economic context, income from migration will be lower than usual. This will have a negative impact on populations in the agropastoral zone, for whom remittances from exodus are the main source of income in a normal year. On the other hand, in the rainfed and valley farming zones, income from labor and casual labor will be similar to a normal year, thanks to the opportunities offered by field preparation and maintenance work. In these areas, in a normal year, income from labor contributes more than 50 percent of a poor household's income.

    In general, markets are expected to be well supplied with staple foodstuffs throughout the forecast period despite the production deficit in Djéri harvest, due to the average to above-average expected harvest in March, cereal imports mainly from Senegal, and international imports of rice, pasta, vegetable oils and wheat. The month of Ramadan in March/April will be marked by strong demand and rising prices for basic foodstuffs, against a backdrop of rising customs duties on vegetable imports. In response, the government has instituted a special program called "Operation Ramadan" aimed at ensuring that basic foodstuffs are available to consumers at affordable prices. This program will help to secure supplies of staple foods to markets by subsidizing the prices of staple foods for the poorest households. During the lean season, prices will continue to rise seasonally as demand increases and the supply of local produce decreases. Overall in 2024, food price levels are expected to remain above average, however, according to ANSADE, average inflation would be around 5 percent or less in 2024, driven by the continued steady decline in food and energy prices. For livestock, an increase in animal supplies and prices, particularly for small ruminants, is expected due to the religious festivals of Ramadan in April, Tabaski in June, and the Grand Magal of Touba/Senegal in August. This will improve livestock farmers' access to income and their purchasing power.

    In areas with high rainfall deficits from last rainy season, notably in the wilayas of Hodh El Chargui, Gorgol, and northern Assaba, herders will be forced to migrate in increasing numbers over the coming months. Furthermore, this zone in the south-east is expected to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from June to September, due to the arrival of thousands of Malian refugees, who are putting pressure on the local host populations in a context of limited resources. In the other zones, between June and September, poor households will face limited food consumption due to depletion of food stocks and limited incomes with most facing Stress (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, though with a growing population expected to face large consumption gaps indicative of a Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Mauritania Remote Monitoring Report February 2024: Mass arrival of Malian refugees in south-east puts pressure on limited resources, 2024.

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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