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Living in Mauritania
A practical guide to the way of life in Mauritania
Mauritania has majestic sceneries and living in this African country is a continuous surprise: expats will enjoy breathtaking landscapes and a peaceful lifestyle, with services and infrastructures that have been improving lately, but are still not up to Western standards.
Life in Mauritania
Healthcare in Mauritania
The healthcare system in Mauritania mainly consists of administrative centers and emergency health facilities. The healthcare expenditure of the country totals an estimated 4.8% of the net GDP. There are roughly around 500 basic healthcare units situated throughout Mauritania.
The healthcare system in the country is predominantly public, however, over the past decade the private medical sector has experienced a steady increase. The industry which has undergone the most privatization is the pharmaceutical field. The only major hospital in Mauritania is situated in the capital and largest city, Nouakchott. This hospital is suitable for medical emergencies; however it is not fully equipped to house inpatients.
The main medical issues which the strained public health sector faces include malaria, tuberculosis, dysentery and childbirth complications. The birth mortality rate currently stands at 550 per 100,000 births. Expats intending on living in Mauritania are thus advised to purchase insurance which will cover the cost of medical evacuation to South Africa or Algeria.
Education in Mauritania
For children between the ages of 6 and 14, education is compulsory and free. Roughly 68% of children of primary school age are enrolled in a school; however the attendance rate is much lower. Many factors are responsible for this, including a lack of adequate education facilities in many areas, particularly rural regions. Another probable cause is that although school is free, the price of travel, books and lunches make education unaffordable for a large portion of families in the country. A 2002 study by the World Food Program found that 25% of absentees in Mauritania did not attend school in order to be able to financially support their families.
The perfect solution for expat families relocating to Mauritania is to enroll at one of Nouakchott’s two international schools. The American International School and the TLC International School are both extremely high standard English language schools which follow an American school calendar, a European syllabus and award students with an International Baccalaureate certificate.
Safety and Security
The Department of State describes the country’s crime rate as ‘medium’. The majority of crimes in the country take place in more populated urban areas. The most common incidents are petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and purse snatching. It is also essential to keep valuable items out of motor vehicles as ‘smash and grab’ style thefts from cars and vans are also extremely common. Residential burglaries have been reported, however only in houses which lack basis security such as locked windows and doors.
Violent crimes are extremely rare in Mauritania, although expats, particularly women should avoid travelling alone at night and getting taxis alone as assault can be an issue with women, particularly foreigners. The main areas to avoid after dark in Mauritania are the beaches and the Le Cinquieme district; these regions can be dangerous at night and occasional carjacking incidents and armed robberies have been reported. If any crime emergencies do occur in Mauritania, the emergency contact number for the police is 117.
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