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Mauritania Demographics Profile 2019

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3,840,429 (July 2018 est.)
Age structure
0-14 years: 38.24% (male 737,570 /female 730,969)
15-24 years: 19.78% (male 372,070 /female 387,375)
25-54 years: 33.44% (male 595,472 /female 688,620)
55-64 years: 4.74% (male 82,197 /female 99,734)
65 years and over: 3.81% (male 62,072 /female 84,350) (2018 est.)
Dependency ratios
total dependency ratio: 76.5 (2015 est.)
youth dependency ratio: 71 (2015 est.)
elderly dependency ratio: 5.5 (2015 est.)
potential support ratio: 18.3 (2015 est.)
Median age
total: 20.7 years (2018 est.)
male: 19.7 years
female: 21.6 years
Population growth rate
2.14% (2018 est.)
Birth rate
29.9 births/1,000 population (2018 est.)
Death rate
7.8 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)
Net migration rate
-0.8 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2018 est.)
urban population: 54.5% of total population (2019)
rate of urbanization: 4.28% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
Major cities - population
1.259 million NOUAKCHOTT (capital) (2019)
Sex ratio
at 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 (2018 est.)
Infant mortality rate
total: 50.5 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
male: 55.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 45.6 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth
total population: 63.8 years (2018 est.)
male: 61.4 years
female: 66.2 years
Total fertility rate
3.79 children born/woman (2018 est.)
Contraceptive prevalence rate
17.8% (2015)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate
0.2% (2018 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS
5,600 (2018 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths
<500 (2018 est.)
Drinking water source
improved: urban: 58.4% of population
rural: 57.1% of population
total: 57.9% of population
unimproved: urban: 41.6% of population
rural: 42.9% of population
total: 42.1% of population (2015 est.)
Sanitation facility access
improved: urban: 57.5% of population (2015 est.)
rural: 13.8% of population (2015 est.)
total: 40% of population (2015 est.)
unimproved: urban: 42.5% of population (2015 est.)
rural: 86.2% of population (2015 est.)
total: 60% of population (2015 est.)
Major infectious diseases
degree of risk: very high (2016)
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever (2016)
vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever (2016)
animal contact diseases: rabies (2016)
respiratory diseases: meningococcal meningitis (2016)
noun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian
Ethnic groups
black 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 Beydane) 30%, sub-Saharan Mauritanians (non-Arabic speaking, largely resident in or originating from the Senegal River Valley, including Halpulaar, Fulani, Soninke, Wolof, and Bambara ethnic groups) 30%
Muslim (official) 100%
Demographic profile

With 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.  According to a 2018 nongovernmental organization's report, a little more than 2% of Mauritania's population is enslaved, which includes individuals sujbected to forced labor and forced marriage, although many thousands of individuals who are legally free contend with discrimination, poor education, and a lack of identity papers and, therefore, live in de facto slavery.  The UN and international press outlets have claimed that up to 20% of Mauritania's population is enslaved, which would be 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.

Arabic (official and national), Pular, 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

definition: 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: 8 years
female: 8 years (2017)
Education expenditures
2.6% of GDP (2016)
Maternal mortality rate
766 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)
Children under the age of 5 years underweight
24.9% (2015)
Health expenditures
4.6% (2015)
Physicians density
0.18 physicians/1,000 population (2017)
Obesity - adult prevalence rate
12.7% (2016)

Source: CIA World Factbook
This page was last updated on December 7, 2019

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