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Mauritania builds barriers to future shocks

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In Nouakchott, Mauritania poor families continue to face the effects of 2012’s widespread drought in the Sahel. The crisis halted much of the region’s food production, contributing to galloping food prices for Mauritania’s most vulnerable. With diminished food purchasing power, a year later many in the city still battle the daily challenges of accessing the food and nutrition necessities for a healthy life.

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In order to offset some of these challenges, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Mauritania’s Commissariat de Securite Alimentaire launched an unconditional cash transfer operation in Nouakchott. Some 62,000 vulnerable Mauritanians living in poor urban communities received cash to close critical bottlenecks and improve their food security situation. The allowances can be used by residents to purchase a variety of food and household items and is seen as a social protection measure to offset deteriorating living conditions. This operation is being financed by a generous contribution made to Mauritania by the European Commission and USAID in late 2012.

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Each selected household received a monthly payment of 15,000 MRO (equivalent to €43) that they could use according to their household priorities and greatest needs. Many residents use this to purchase food, repay debts or to access critical health care services.

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Though the drought has ended, the effects of the crisis still linger in Nouakchott, other parts of Mauritania and the Sahel region in general. The WFP and partners will continue to support these vulnerable communities in order to help them make a full recovery.  In the coming months, WFP will launch a ‘cash for training’ program to benefit 15,000 poor households in Nouakchott.

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Participating households will receive a 4 month training program in professional and social sectors. They will receive cash incentives to attend the training sessions which have been designed not only improve their access to food but to strengthen technical skills and to increase their chances of finding employment in the future.

Nouakchott is the largest city in Mauritania and one of the largest in the Sahara; it boasts a population of more than 700,000.