Mauritania hosts over 2’500 urban refugees and asylum- seekers and almost 55’000 Malian refugees in and around Mbera Refugee Camp. Despite the conclusion of a peace agreement in 2015, large-scale returns of Malian refugees are not expected due to persistent violence in northern and central Mali. In January 2019 alone, 313 new arrivals were registered in Mbera Refugee Camp; the protracted nature of the crisis has prompted United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to engage actors critical to the strengthening of the humanitarian-development nexus. The refugee population in Mbera Refugee Camp is relatively young, with children (less than 18 years) numbering 32’653 (50.6% Female, 49.4% Male).
Out of a total of 32’653 children in the camp, around 20’000 are of school age. But according to UNHCR January 2019 statistics, 3’058 children attended primary school students (1’564 girls and 1’493 boys) and 353 students from secondary school.
According to findings by RET, poverty and cultural norms (early marriage and pregnancy, low perception of the value of girls’ education) are important barriers for girls’ education. Added to that are parent’s fears for girls’ safety on the way to school and in the school environment. There are cases of sexual violence against girls within the school setting that are even perpetrated by the school staff; though, there are no available statistics to document these violations. The forms of gender-based violence most prevalent in camp and in local communities outside continue to be child forced marriage, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation (FGM), rape and physical assault. While poverty and household socioeconomic vulnerability often pave way to child forced marriages, the latter is perceived as a ‘protection marriage’, protecting young girls from premarital sex, pregnancy outside marriage, sexual assault and rape, though in reality, it compromises a girl’s future by resulting in early pregnancy, interrupting her schooling and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence. Rape is often unreported due to mistrust, and the victims’ fear of marginalization, rejection and stigmatization.
Hence, RET entered Mauritania in 2019 to ensure inclusive and equitable access to educational opportunities, and provide protection services and tailor-made solutions, building on the field missions findings to address existing and/or recurring humanitarian, peace and development gaps.