On Tuesday 7th January, Counterpart International announced its partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide $ 22.5 million for development activities in Mauritania. This will also support multi-sectorial national strategies in improving education, nutrition, health, access to water, sanitation, and hygiene for school children.
Counterpart is expected to lead the implementation of this new five-year program (2019-2024) “The Future is Ours,” in collaboration with local partners such as ARED, EcoDev, and ONG Actions, to assist the Government of Mauritania to reduce hunger, improve health, and strengthen the primary education system.
The program will benefit 127,100 students in 209 schools in the regions of Brakna and Gorgol through integrated activities aligned with national education and health policies. The Future is Ours project provides a vital and sustainable safety net for children living in Mauritania while supporting critical sanitation, child education and development initiatives
In improving educational system Counterpart will work with Ministries of Health and Education, schools, parents’ associations, community members, and non-government agencies by providing nutritious daily school meals across 209 primary schools, this will help increase student attendance in school.
More so, the program will enhance school infrastructure by providing students access to clean water and sanitation by building storerooms, latrines, and water station systems. In improving the healthcare of students, Counterpart will enhance health and dietary practices by providing access to deworming medications and increasing knowledge of nutrition, hygiene, and safe food preparation and storage practices.
With a literacy rate of 51.2%, the literacy of school-age children will improve through the implementation of a multi-layered pilot program, with an increase in the capacity of national stakeholders to improve the quality of the primary school system and lead and maintain sustainable school feeding programs.
Prior to this, Mauritania received support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Counterpart in implementing the Community Action, Nutrition and Livelihoods (CANAL) project from 2006 to 2013, which focused on increasing food security in Mauritania’s most insecure regions (Gorgol, Guidimaka, Assaba, and Hodh El Gharbi regions).
Although Mauritania is making progress towards meeting some of its development goals, it is still ranked 161 out of 189 countries on the 2018 Human Development Index. Over 75 percent of the population depends on subsistence agriculture and pastoralism, two-thirds or Mauritania consists of desert and faces recurring natural disasters such as drought, locusts, and flooding, leaving Mauritania to a chronic food deficit.
Over the past five years, food insecurity rates have hovered between 25 to 30 percent in the lean season, leading to stunting and acute malnutrition, negatively impacting students’ ability to attend school and learn. The effects of food insecurity are exacerbated by the lack of water and access to sanitation for approximately one-third of the population in the country. Being constantly hungry, thirsty, or sick disproportionately impacts young children and youth, hindering their ability to reach their full potential.
However, Dr Ann Hudock, President and CEO of Counterpart International, said that Counterpart is looking forward to building a successful and long-standing partnership with USDA as they continue with Mauritania on its journey to self-reliance.
Mauritania is on the path to self-reliance, and with the help of Counterpart, USDA and other financial aids, it will be able to provide good education, healthcare services and food for its people.
By Faith Ikade