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Mauritania: People & Society#

Population3,677,293 (July 2016 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian
Ethnic groupsblack Moors (Haratines - Arab-speaking slaves, former slaves, and their descendants of African origin, enslaved by white Moors) 40%, white Moors (of Arab-Berber descent, known as Bidhan) 30%, black Africans (non-Arabic speaking, Halpulaar, Soninke, Wolof, and Bamara ethnic groups) 30%
LanguagesArabic (official and national), Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof (all national languages), French
note: the spoken Arabic in Mauritania differs considerably from the modern standard Arabic used for official written purposes or in the media; the Mauritanian dialect, which incorporates many Berber words, is referred to as Hassaniya
ReligionsMuslim (official) 100%
Demographic profileWith a sustained total fertility rate of about 4 children per woman and almost 60% of the population under the age of 25, Mauritania’s population is likely to continue growing for the foreseeable future. Mauritania’s large youth cohort is vital to its development prospects, but available schooling does not adequately prepare students for the workplace. Girls continue to be underrepresented in the classroom, educational quality remains poor, and the dropout rate is high. The literacy rate is only about 50%, even though access to primary education has improved since the mid-2000s. Women’s restricted access to education and discriminatory laws maintain gender inequality – worsened by early and forced marriages and female genital cutting. The denial of education to black Moors also helps to perpetuate slavery. Although Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981 (the last country in the world to do so) and made it a criminal offense in 2007, the millenniums-old practice persists largely because anti-slavery laws are rarely enforced and the custom is so ingrained. Up to 20% of Mauritania’s population is estimated to be enslaved, the highest rate worldwide. Drought, poverty, and unemployment have driven outmigration from Mauritania since the 1970s. Early flows were directed toward other West African countries, including Senegal, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, and Gambia. The 1989 Mauritania-Senegal conflict forced thousands of black Mauritanians to take refuge in Senegal and pushed labor migrants toward the Gulf, Libya, and Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Mauritania has accepted migrants from neighboring countries to fill labor shortages since its independence in 1960 and more recently has received refugees escaping civil wars, including tens of thousands of Tuaregs who fled Mali in 2012. Mauritania was an important transit point for sub-Saharan migrants moving illegally to North Africa and Europe. In the mid-2000s, as border patrols increased in the Strait of Gibraltar, security increased around Spain’s North African enclaves (Ceuta and Melilla), and Moroccan border controls intensified, illegal migration flows shifted from the Western Mediterranean to Spain’s Canary Islands. In 2006, departure points moved southward along the West African coast from Morocco and Western Sahara to Mauritania’s two key ports (Nouadhibou and the capital Nouakchott), and illegal migration to the Canaries peaked at almost 32,000. The numbers fell dramatically in the following years because of joint patrolling off the West African coast by Frontex (the EU’s border protection agency), Spain, Mauritania, and Senegal; the expansion of Spain’s border surveillance system; and the 2008 European economic downturn.
Age structure0-14 years: 38.87% (male 717,790/female 711,694)
15-24 years: 19.86% (male 357,460/female 372,744)
25-54 years: 32.96% (male 561,341/female 650,580)
55-64 years: 4.61% (male 76,372/female 93,065)
65 years and over: 3.71% (male 57,814/female 78,433) (2016 est.)
Dependency ratiostotal dependency ratio: 76.1%
youth dependency ratio: 70.5%
elderly dependency ratio: 5.7%
potential support ratio: 17.7% (2015 est.)
Median agetotal: 20.3 years
male: 19.3 years
female: 21.2 years (2016 est.)
Population growth rate2.2% (2016 est.)
Birth rate30.9 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Death rate8.1 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Net migration rate-0.8 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Population distributionwith most of the country being a desert, vast areas of the country, particularly in the central, northern, and eastern areas, are without sizeable population clusters; half the population lives in or around the coastal capital of Nouakchott; smaller clusters are found near the southern border with Mali and Senegal
Urbanizationurban population: 59.9% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 3.54% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Major urban areas - populationNOUAKCHOTT (capital) 968,000 (2015)
Sex ratioat birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.86 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.82 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.74 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2016 est.)
Maternal mortality rate602 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
Infant mortality ratetotal: 53.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 58.1 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 48.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)
Life expectancy at birthtotal population: 63 years
male: 60.7 years
female: 65.4 years (2016 est.)
Total fertility rate3.93 children born/woman (2016 est.)
Contraceptive prevalence rate9.3% (2007)
Health expenditures3.8% of GDP (2014)
Physicians density0.13 physicians/1,000 population (2009)
Hospital bed density0.4 beds/1,000 population (2006)
Drinking water sourceimproved:
urban: 58.4% of population
rural: 57.1% of population
total: 57.9% of population
urban: 41.6% of population
rural: 42.9% of population
total: 42.1% of population (2015 est.)
Sanitation facility accessimproved:
urban: 57.5% of population
rural: 13.8% of population
total: 40% of population
urban: 42.5% of population
rural: 86.2% of population
total: 60% of population (2015 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate0.57% (2015 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS13,700 (2015 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths1,000 (2015 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
animal contact disease: rabies (2016)
Obesity - adult prevalence rate8.6% (2014)
Children under the age of 5 years underweight19.5% (2012)
Education expenditures2.9% of GDP (2013)
Literacydefinition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 52.1%
male: 62.6%
female: 41.6% (2015 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)total: 8 years
male: 9 years
female: 8 years (2013)
Child labor - children ages 5-14total number: 127,251
percentage: 16% (2007 est.)