Mauritania is located in West Africa by the Atlantic Ocean. The hot, dry plains of the Sahara Desert cover most of the country, with a narrow fertile valley running along the southern border. This valley holds the country’s only area of rich soil and vegetation.

  • Population: 3,460,000
  • Life Expectancy: 58 years
  • Access to Safe Water: 49%
  • School Enrollment: 76%
  • Land Mass: 397,955 sq. mi.
  • Literacy Rate: 57%
  • Under Age 5 Mortality Rate: 111/1000
  • Average Annual Income (GNI): 1,060

Facts about Mauritania

Economic Development

A lessening demand for iron ore and unsuccessful oil projects continues to weaken Mauritania’s economy. About 40 percent of people live below the poverty line, and at least 30 percent are unemployed.

Food & Agriculture

Despite its history of repeated and prolonged droughts, Mauritania depends heavily on agriculture. Food insecurity and malnutrition are ongoing threats, especially for children.

Clean Water

Lack of clean water also affects children, who frequently suffer from diarrhea and malaria — especially in rural areas.

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Progress in Mauritania

Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors. World Vision was able to work alongside communities to accomplish the following in 2012.

  • Established an early warning system for natural disasters in the community and educated a village committee on how to respond to emergencies.

  • Trained both staff and volunteer teachers on classroom management techniques and improved teaching methods.

  • Supported unschooled, struggling students with vocational education and supplementary remedial classes in order to expand their opportunities.

  • Provided community garden cooperatives with irrigation pumps and high-quality seeds to increase productivity.

  • Equipped community health facilities with health charts, scales, and medicine to identify, monitor, and rehabilitate malnourished children.

  • Worked to control and prevent malaria in communities by facilitating training for healthcare staff and distributing bed nets to children and pregnant women.

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    World Vision in Mauritania Today

    World Vision is committed to partnering with the people of Mauritania to improve their lives today and to help enact sustainable solutions for the future of their children, families, and communities. World Vision's child sponsorship program plays a vital role in this partnership, with donors from the United States sponsoring more than 5,900 girls and boys. In addition to sponsorship, World Vision operates other programs that benefit communities in Mauritania. Highlights include:

    • Providing access to safe and clean water, reducing the spread of cholera.
    • Increasing food security and reducing poverty.
    • Improving access to clinics and healthcare.
    • Building new school facilities to help children receive quality education.

    World Vision History in Mauritania

    World Vision responded to a drought in Mauritania in the 1970s which led to a drought response team being set up in 1983. Since then, some of World Vision’s major accomplishments have included:

    • Feeding millions of hungry Mauritanians in the 1980s and 1990s.
    • Educating women about nutrition and health issues and providing thousands of people with access to clean water during the 1990s.
    • Continuing drought relief efforts, supporting microloan endeavors, and raising HIV and AIDS awareness since the beginning of the 21st century.

    Geography & People

    Geography and people

    Mauritania is located in West Africa by the Atlantic Ocean. The hot, dry plains of the Sahara Desert cover most of the country, with a narrow fertile valley running along the southern border. This valley holds the country’s only area of rich soil and vegetation.

    Natural resources include iron ore, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, and fish.

    Most of the people in Mauritania live in the coastal cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the south. Arabic is the country’s official language, but Mauritanians also speak Pulaar, Soninké, Hassaniya, Wolof, and French.

    Arab Moors make up about 30 percent of the population, Haratine (black) Moors comprise another 30 percent, and a mixture of the two groups accounts for the remaining 40 percent. Almost all Mauritanians are Muslim.

    Since they can rarely afford meat or fruit, Mauritanians live on a simple starchy diet of couscous or rice. They are renowned for their kind hospitality; even the poorest host will serve houseguests small glasses of sweet mint tea.


    Mauritania gained independence from France in November 1960 and was admitted to the United Nations a year later. After the Spanish left in 1975, Mauritania and Morocco divided the territory of Western Sahara.

    After the overthrow of President Ould Daddah in 1978, Mauritania had a succession of military rulers. A year later, Mauritania withdrew from Western Sahara. In 1984, a new president took control of the government, relaxing Islamic law, fighting corruption, and instituting economic reforms.

    The government prevented two coup attempts in 2003 and 2004, but military officers deposed the president in 2005. Mauritanians held their first democratic election in 2007. Despite a coup in 2008, democratic elections continue today.

    Prayer Requests for Mauritania

    • More classrooms to be built to ease overcrowding and encourage education.
    • Malnourished children to receive life-giving nutritional supplements.
    • Families and children struggling with hunger.
    • Peace and stability to return to the country.