Why are we there?

  • Armed conflict
  • Access to health care

Our work

This is an extract from MSF's 2013 International Activity Report:

In January, another 15,000 refugees escaping violence in Mali crossed into Mauritania, joining those already settled in precarious conditions at Mbera camp.

The presence of armed groups in Mali has instilled fear and pushed thousands of refugees into Mauritania. By early 2014, over 59,000 people had settled in the middle of the desert, and ethnic tensions in northern Mali have quashed any hopes of a swift return home.                  

Refugees receive healthcare through a health post at the border in Fassala—which also screens children aged from six months to five years for malnutrition—and through three health centers in Mbera camp, all supported by MSF. Teams carried out some 1,800 consultations each week in 2013.

The living conditions in the camp are very difficult and people rely on aid to survive. In April, MSF released Stranded in the Desert, a report calling on aid organizations to meet the basic needs of refugees in Mbera. The majority of the diseases treated inside the camp are preventable, and are primarily caused by a lack of clean water and food. A comparative data analysis revealed that children developed malnutrition after six to eight weeks in the camp, and an average of 300 severely malnourished children were treated there every month.

MSF also supports Bassikounou health centre, where an operating theatre was set up to provide emergency surgery for refugees and the host population, and to stabilize patients for referral to the hospital in Néma. MSF carried out 160 interventions this year, the majority of them emergency responses.

At the end of 2013, MSF had 307 staff in Mauritania. MSF has worked in the country since 1994.

Patient story

Azarra*, 40 years old, from Timbuktu

It took us two days to arrive in Fassala; we were tired but we were alive and safe. That was the most important thing. Now, we have to adapt to life in Mbera camp but it is very difficult for us … I was poor in Mali but here it is even worse, I have absolutely nothing and I feel like a complete stranger, far from my own country. I want peace to return to the north so that I can finally go back home.

* Name has been changed