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Country Guides for Africa

Mauritania

Mauritania Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976, but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution approved in 1991. Two multiparty presidential elections since then were widely seen as flawed, but October 2001 legislative and municipal elections were generally free and open. Mauritania remains, in reality, a one-party state. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions between its black minority population and the dominant Maur (Arab-Berber) populace.

Source: CIA World Factbook

Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the region and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal.Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. All travelers to West Africa, including infants, children, and former residents of West Africa, are at risk for malaria. All travelers should take one of the following drugs (listed alphabetically): atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine, or primaquine (in special circumstances).

Yellow fever vaccination is recommended and may be required for entry into certain of these countries. If you travel to West Africa, the easiest and safest thing to do is get a yellow fever vaccination and a signed certificate. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, is found in fresh water in the region. Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in these countries.

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid nighttime travel if possible and always use seat belts.

CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):

See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Meningococcal meningitis, for travel to most of these countries from December through June.
  • Yellow fever.
  • Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
  • Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not complete the series as infants.

To stay healthy, do...

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, make water safer by BOTH filtering through an “absolute 1-micron or less” filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. “Absolute 1-micron filters” are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your doctor for a prescription.)
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites:
    • Pay special attention to mosquito protection between dusk and dawn. This is when the type of mosquito whose bite transmits malaria is active.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
    • Use insect repellents that contain DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide).
    • Read and follow the directions and precautions on the product label.
    • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
    • Do not put repellent on wounds or broken skin.
    • Do not breathe in, swallow, or get into the eyes (DEET is toxic if swallowed). If using a spray product, apply DEET to your face by spraying your hands and rubbing the product carefully over the face, avoiding eyes and mouth.
    • Unless you are staying in air-conditioned or well-screened housing, purchase a bed net impregnated with the insecticide permethrin or deltamethrin. Or, spray the bed net with one of these insecticides if you are unable to find a pretreated bed net.
    • DEET may be used on adults, children, and infants older than 2 months of age. Protect infants by using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.
    • Children under 10 years old should not apply insect repellent themselves. Do not apply to young children’s hands or around eyes and mouth.
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.


Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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SAFETY AND SECURITY: Travel is generally safe within most of Mauritania, a vast and truly scenic, fascinating country. However, all travelers must exercise prudence and caution. Travelers should not venture into the Sahara unless accompanied by an experienced guide and even then only if equipped with sturdy vehicles and ample provisions. Moreover, the U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott continues to receive reports of banditry along the border between Mali and Mauritania. Landmines remain a danger along the border with the Western Sahara. Travelers planning surface trips from Mauritania to Morocco, Algeria, Senegal or Mali should check with the U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott before setting out. For more information about travel in Mauritania, please see the section "Traffic Safety and Road Conditions," below.

Political gatherings and street demonstrations have been known to occur periodically. During periods of political unrest, demonstrators frequently throw rocks at passing cars. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and maintain security awareness at all times.

Although U.S. citizens are generally welcomed in Mauritania, there were reports of anti-American incidents such as threats and stoning of vehicles, following the 1998 U.S. and British-led intervention in Iraq, and demonstrations outside the Embassy during the 2003 U.S. intervention in Iraq. Some Muslim extremists have occasionally perceived Christian non-governmental organizations as a threat. However, local authorities closely monitor political violence and religious extremist groups.

CRIME: Crime in Mauritania is moderate but is steadily increasing. Most incidents are in the cities and larger towns, and are petty crimes such as pickpocketing and the theft of improperly secured and openly visible valuables left in vehicles. Residential burglaries, robberies, and assaults do occur, but they have rarely involved the American community. Most criminal activity occurs at night, and walking alone at night is not advisable. Violent crimes and crimes involving the use of weapons are also rare, but increasing. In Nouakchott, the beach should be avoided at night. During the day, beach-goers should travel in large groups or stay in popular areas, since a number of thefts and violent incidents have been reported there in the past several years.

Any U.S. citizen who is the victim of a crime while in Mauritania should, besides contacting the local police, also call the U.S. Embassy. Embassy staff can, for example, help U.S. citizens to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how money can be transferred to Mauritania. Although the investigation and prosecution of a crime is the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens also may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.



Source: U.S. Department of State

desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty

Source: CIA World Factbook

Mauritania's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Please note: Not all electrical sockets in this country provide grounding. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and a visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. For further information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Mauritania, 2129 Leroy Place N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 232-5700, website: www.ambarim-dc.org, or the Mauritanian Permanent Mission to the U.N., 211 East 43rd Street, Suite 2000, New York, N.Y. 10017, telephone (212) 986-7963 or 8189, and e-mail http://Mauritania@un.int. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Mauritanian embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated additional documentation procedures at entry/exit points for travelers with children. These requirements often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship to the child and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian, if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.



Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Mauritania is 0 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Mauritania would be 5:00 pm

The unit of currency in Mauritania is the ouguiya (MRO).

Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter

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